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Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Legislation Committee
Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade

Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade


CHAIR: I welcome Senator the Hon. George Brandis QC, the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs. Good morning, Minister.

Senator Brandis: Good morning, Mr Chairman.

CHAIR: I also welcome Ms Frances Adamson, Secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade; and officers of the department. Minister, do you wish to make an opening statement?

Senator Brandis: No.

CHAIR: Secretary, I think you do want to make an opening statement. Would you please proceed.

Ms Adamson : Good morning and thank you, Chair, for the opportunity to make an opening statement. I would like to update the committee on three important issues. First, DFAT's corporate reforms and regional management training, why we do it and how we are doing it better. Second, an update on the foreign policy white paper and, third, a new initiative called the global heads of mission meeting.

Let me start by recognising this committee's interest in arrangements for the regional management conference, a principle vehicle through which we conduct staff training, in Paris last year. We answered questions at the last hearing and in response to questions on notice, and I do not propose to revisit those answers in in my opening remarks. What I would like to do is summarise why we conduct this training, where we have made changes since then and underline to you my own determination as secretary to ensure that departmental practices meet community expectations. I lead a department that today supports a workforce overseas of more than 6 1/2 thousand Australian and locally engaged staff, who are overwhelmingly non-Australians, across over 100 locations.

You will have heard the Prime Minister's announcement during the recent visit by the President of Indonesia that we are shortly to open another consulate in Surabaya, underlining the government's intention to further expand our diplomatic reach. Australia's growing overseas network helps build vital contacts, interpret events, identify underlying trends and advocate for a wide range of Australian interests, including growing our export markets and facilitating two way investment. And, of course, we assist Australians who need our help. To quickly illustrate this, in the past year, posts attending training in Paris managed over 5,500 consular cases and accepted over 33,000 passport applications.

The key purpose of the meeting in Paris last year was to ensure our staff from key European posts have the skills and knowledge to implement the department's corporate reform agenda, including how to deliver the most cost-effective services overseas. Another key topic of that meeting was security, given the heightened threat of terrorism at that time. Posts in Europe last year managed responses to four major crises. Istanbul saw two major incidents with the explosions in January and the airport attacks in June 2016. Then there were the explosions in Brussels in March 2016 and the terror attacks in Paris in November 2015. There are always lessons to be learnt from these responses. While we received very positive feedback from many of the Australians we assist, we need to continue to improve our performance.

After the last estimates, I initiated a review of regional management training, noting that this kind of training has been held in one form or another by the department for over 30 years. The review found that training should continue in a streamlined way with a focus on corporate reform and capability, minimising the number of Canberra-based participants and encouraging greater use of videoconferencing where this is technically feasible. There will be better coordination of travel, with higher level oversight of delegations and a single point of approval for travel. Before the review was finalised, we revised arrangements for the next iteration, held in Jakarta last November. Six officers travelled to Jakarta from Canberra to lead those sessions. There were 93 participants from 21 posts, including Jakarta. Not surprisingly—and it was one of the reasons for hosting the meeting there—53 of those were based in Jakarta. I note, too, that many of the sessions were delivered by Skype from Canberra, although the technology did not always play nicely. I am sure that will improve.

That aside, I do want to underline my ongoing commitment to regional management training because it helps ensure staff overseas have the skills and knowledge to run our overseas posts efficiently and professionally, deliver services to Australians and meet priorities across government. Particularly in our region, overseas posts are critical to delivering the $3.8 billion aid program aimed at contributing to sustainable growth, poverty reduction and regional stability, all of which are strongly in Australia's national interest.

Many members of this committee have worked directly with overseas posts to fulfil their international duties, whether monitoring overseas elections, facilitating your work with foreign counterparts or, indeed, as ministers. It is vital that overseas posts maintain a high level of capability. We do this in a complex international environment where the scale and pace of change is unprecedented.

It is in this context that we are working on a whole of government foreign policy white paper. It is the right time to restate and advocate our values, to look at our priorities and our interests and ensure that what we do in our international engagement advances the national interest. We need to consider how well positioned we are to seize the economic opportunities that are emerging, including in the Indo-Pacific, were a growing urban middle class continues to power growth and provide opportunities for our exporters. We expect these opportunities to continue to grow, but so will competition from other producers of goods and services.

We are seeing the emergence of a more competitive, perhaps more contested, world. We are also seeing the emergence of new powers, including in the Indo-Pacific. We assess that our ally, the United States, will remain the world's leading power, especially in military terms, by a considerable margin, although its relative strength will reduce and many other countries, including China and India, are likely to exert more international influence. This sort of shift in relative power, as well as the risk of economic nationalism, bears careful examination. The government is looking, through the foreign policy white paper, to ensure that it has the right long-term policy settings to mitigate risk and seize opportunities.

As the Minister for Foreign Affairs has said, there have been significant changes in the international environment since the publication of the last such white paper in 2003. The white paper will examine drivers of change internationally and assess their implications for Australia's interests. It will outline the government's international priorities in response to this changing international context. It will assess Australia's ability to shape events, to influence outcomes and to determine what is in our national interests at this time and over the next 10 years. This is not about predicting the future but getting the right framework in place so that Australia is strategically positioned to manage and perhaps shape events.

Since the last estimates, Richard Maude, on leave from his position as director general of the Office of National Assessments, has taken up his position as head of the white paper task force. Mr Maude and his team have been conducting an extensive consultation process across the country, seeking public submissions for the white paper. We can go into further detail on that process today.

The final issue I would like to brief the committee about is the role of Australian heads of mission. Just as critical as our policy settings in promoting and protecting our interests is the leadership of the heads of mission. We ask many things of our heads of mission—the ambassadors, high commissioners, consuls general and trade commissioners who represent Australia abroad. We expect them to be connected both with influential contacts in their host countries as well as the policy settings here at home and to be able to advance and defend a wide range of Australian interests. As you may have seen in media reports, the department will be holding a meeting of all Australian heads of mission from 28 March, firstly in Canberra and then in state capitals and rural and regional Australia.

This meeting will bring together for the first time our heads of mission to discuss Australia's foreign, trade and development policy objectives and the global environment in which we are seeking to achieve them. Participants will make a direct contribution to the formulation of the foreign policy white paper and test its assumptions. They will connect with domestic stakeholders in state and territory capitals and rural and regional Australia to listen and refine our policy settings and advance commercial and trade interests. For example, our ambassador in Stockholm will visit the headquarters in Brisbane of Volvo Trucks, a major Swedish investor producing Australian designed vehicles at the largest assembly plant for heavy duty trucks in Australia. Rio Tinto in Bundoora will host our ambassador to Belgrade at their new pilot plant for the Jadar lithium borate project to commence in Serbia. Our High Commissioner in Pretoria will visit the Geelong headquarters of the Cotton On Group. Over the past five years South Africa has been the single biggest driver of growth for the Cotton On Group globally. Our High Commissioner in Malta will engage with members of the Maltese community. Our ambassador to Iraq will also be meeting with members of the Iraqi community. Our ambassador in Copenhagen, an Indigenous Australian ambassador, will be visiting Alice Springs with our ambassador to the UN in New York to inform Australia's international position on human rights issues.

All the costs of these meetings will be met through existing funds. There is no new money attached to this initiative. The cost in Canberra to host the meeting will be about $70,000, covering venue costs and catering. And the cost of flights and accommodation for officials will be approximately $1.1 million, which will be fully absorbed by DFAT. Costs have been offset, including by not holding meetings that would otherwise bring ambassadors back to Canberra, saving around $400,000.

I should add that meetings of this kind are a well-established practice amongst modern foreign services. For example, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Korea, the UK, Russia and the United States as well as countries the size of New Zealand and the Netherlands all conduct annual meetings of ambassadors in their capitals. We are not proposing that this meeting be held annually but, given the white paper under way, this is an opportune time to convene the event.

In summary, in an uncertain global environment, I want the department I lead to be in the best possible position to respond quickly and professionally to unpredictable events, build links to enhance Australia's influence, support Australians overseas and connect with the views of Australians. Thank you again, Chair. My colleagues and I would be happy to respond to questions.

CHAIR: Thank you. I will ask you to table that. I will go to questions. Senator Wong.

Senator WONG: Do you have copies available of your statement?

Ms Adamson : I do. Some minor changes will be added and then it will be distributed. Chair, I would also like to table commitments and expenditures for the aid program for the current financial year and forward estimates.

Senator WONG: This is Mr Woods's table?

Ms Adamson : Yes.

CHAIR: Are committee members happy for that to be tabled?

Senator WONG: Yes, very pleased. Thank you. You started with the global heads of missions meeting, which I was going to come to later. But given that you opened with that I will say that it certainly sounds like a better option than sending people to Paris to save money. Can you clarify how long it will go for? Was it a three-day meeting, did you say in your statement?

Ms Adamson : The meeting will be held from the 28th. So it will effectively be four days—the afternoon of the 27th, all day on the 28th and 29th in Canberra and then heads of mission will fan out across Australia to state capitals and rural and regional areas.

Senator WONG: Is this the first time a meeting of this type will occur?

Ms Adamson : It is the first time we will have held a global heads of mission meeting.

Senator WONG: What should I call it?

Ms Adamson : We are calling it the global heads of mission meeting.

Senator WONG: When was the decision made to do this?

Ms Adamson : When I became secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade it was something that I wanted to do in support of the white paper process. I saw considerable value in doing it also for the reasons I have outlined-the importance of our heads of missions connecting with Australians, explaining the work we do and listening to them. I then put a proposal to the Minister for Foreign Affairs and the Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment.

Senator WONG: When did you do that?

Ms Adamson : It would have been certainly something I wrote to our heads of mission about in my first letter to them in early October. So around that time.

Senator WONG: The submission had been agreed to at that time?

Ms Adamson : It was not a full submission. This is a matter relating to the administration of a department.

Senator WONG: Sure, I am not suggesting that it was a cabinet submission. I thought you said that you put it before the ministers.

Ms Adamson : I said to the ministers I was proposing to hold a meeting. This would be the purpose and they agreed.

Senator WONG: When was that?

Ms Adamson : I would have to check my diary. We have a series of meetings to—

Senator WONG: But before or after your letter?

Ms Adamson : After my letter. I said that we were considering holding a meeting. I hoped we would be able to hold a meeting, and then we decided that we would hold a meeting.

Senator WONG: Some time after October?

Ms Adamson : Yes.

Senator WONG: Prior to the last estimates?

Ms Adamson : I would have to check that.

Senator WONG: You can take that on notice what that date was.

Ms Adamson : I can get that for you in the course of the day.

Senator WONG: Thank you. I appreciate that. So the origin of the idea, it is reasonable to say, was yours?

Ms Adamson : It was.

Senator WONG: Can you just clarify the different roles or what role Minister Bishop had, as opposed to Minister Ciobo?

Ms Adamson : In what context?

Senator WONG: In terms of the planning of the meeting.

Ms Adamson : Both ministers are involved and engaged in discussions about the meeting and the way in which it will support our interests.

Senator WONG: Do you have particular outcomes that have been identified and can you provide those?

Ms Adamson : The outcomes will be clear after the meeting.

Senator WONG: Sorry, what outcomes you are seeking. I should have been clearer.

Ms Adamson : We are seeking the input of our heads of mission, active input into the white paper process, including through interactions between them and debates and discussions between them in the course of the meetings. Many of them have submitted ideas in writing. They have been valuable and taken on board by the white paper team. But there are good reasons why we need to get together to discuss how we can best prosecute our trade and political interests.

Senator WONG: Sure. I am just trying to work out if there is going to be a document, a report. Is there going to be something which articulates what the outcomes of the meeting were?

Ms Adamson : The outcomes of the meeting will be fed into the white paper process.

Senator WONG: You have said that a number of times.

Ms Adamson : And that is the answer.

Senator WONG: Is there going to be some formal document which summarises what is being discussed at the meeting? I am just trying to understand the process of the feedback. I understand the logic of it. People on the ground coming back, feeding into a white paper process. But I am just trying to understand if it is intended that there will be a secretariat that will collate the various views and put them to Mr Maude's team? I am just wondering if those sorts of things are being considered.

Ms Adamson : Mr Maude and his team will be actively engaged in the process.

Senator WONG: There is a difference between sitting at the back of the room and writing stuff down. I am just trying to understand if there is a formal report process—a formal process of the transmission of ideas.

Ms Adamson : Our aim, our aspiration, is to ensure all good ideas are captured and used in the white paper.

Senator WONG: How are they going to be captured?

Ms Adamson : They will be captured in a range of ways.

Senator WONG: Have you turned your mind to those?

Ms Adamson : Mr Maude and his team will be in the room for all aspects of the discussion. As you know, the Prime Minister has been invited and has agreed to speak to the group. So have ministers. Similarly, an invitation has been extended to you and the Leader of the Opposition. We will need to look, as we go through the process, at the best way of capturing it, because we have over 100 people. They will be at many different sites. We have put a great deal of emphasis on the organisation so far and what our ultimate objective is. But in terms of reporting, that is something we will need to give further consideration to.

Senator WONG: That is a reasonable answer. Is this intended to be annual or biannual?

Ms Adamson : As I said in my opening statement, it is not intended to be an annual event.

Senator WONG: Is it intended to be biannual?

Ms Adamson : We will review the success of the event after the first one and make a decision then.

Senator WONG: Will Mr Hockey be attending?

Ms Adamson : Mr Hockey will be attending.

Senator WONG: Sorry, this is the disadvantage of not having the statement tabled yet. Did you outline the cost?

Ms Adamson : I did outline the cost. I made some hand written amendments, which staff are transcribing now.

Senator WONG: Can we go back to the white paper?

Ms Adamson : If it assists the committ ee, if you would permit my penultimate draft to be given to each of you—

Senator WONG: I do not want to put you at a disadvantage. I am happy to come back to it. You can let me know that I have forgotten to come back to it, if you want.

Ms Adamson : We will give it to you as soon as possible. As I say, if it is helpful to have the penultimate draft, I am happy for you to have that.

Senator WONG: Let's go back to the white paper. We had a lengthy discussion on the last occasion. Was the decision to have a white paper, as opposed to a foreign policy strategy, a decision of government?

Ms Adamson : I think we responded to a question on notice that we have used these terms interchangeably.

Senator WONG: Ms Adamson, we can go through the word games again, but you and I both know that the term 'white paper' has a particular meaning in terms of the development of government policy. The minister has announced a white paper. Correct?

Ms Adamson : Correct.

Senator WONG: Right. I am asking about the decision to do a white paper. I am asking about that. I assume that was a decision of government.

Ms Adamson : As you know, when I became secretary I was asked to produce a foreign policy strategy/white paper.

Senator WONG: Why is this so hard?

Ms Adamson : I am sorry. I do not quite understand the thrust of your question.

Senator WONG: I think you do understand, Ms Adamson. Would you agree that the phrase 'white paper' points to a particular type of paper in terms of the development of government policy? We have had the Dawkins white paper. We have had a range of white papers over the last few decades. There is the Defence white paper which the government has done. You would agree that there is a particular meaning to the phrase 'white paper', would you not?

Ms Adamson : As we discussed last time, the white paper is a formal articulation of government policy.

Senator WONG: Thank you. Who made the decision that there would be a white paper?

Ms Adamson : This was a decision of government.

Senator WONG: Thank you. When was that decision made?

Ms Adamson : I am not able to tell you a direct date at which a decision was made. As we discussed last time, this came out of a commitment by the coalition during the election campaign to produce a foreign policy strategy in the form of a white paper, which we are now doing. I have next to me Mr Justin Hayhurst , first assistant secretary from the white paper taskforce.

Senator WONG: Why can't you tell me when?

Ms Adamson : I became secretary of the department on 25 August. At what point the decision was translated from an election commitment to become a foreign policy white paper, I am not sure.

Senator WONG: What do you mean, you are not sure?

Ms Adamson : I am not sure. I was not present immediately after the election. My instructions were to produce a foreign policy white paper.

Senator WONG: When were you advised that the election commitment would be produced as a white paper? When did you become aware that it would be a white paper?

Ms Adamson : I became aware when I became secretary. The foreign minister said to me that we would be producing a foreign policy white paper. This was something that I was very keen to do and we have got on with it ever since.

Senator WONG: By the way, you said that this was a decision of government. Was that a formal decision? Was it a ministerial level decision or a cabinet decision?

Ms Adamson : I was asked to produce a foreign policy white paper and that is what we are doing.

Senator WONG: I know that that is the sentence you want to keep repeating, Ms Adamson. I am asking you a very direct question: you have agreed in an answer to an earlier question that this was a decision of government. I am simply asking at which level the decision was made. It is a very reasonable question. was it the minister only or was it a cabinet level decision?

Ms Adamson : I need to take that question on notice.

Senator WONG: Really?

Ms Adamson : Because, as I said, I became secretary on 24 August. I was asked to produce a foreign policy white paper. That is what we are doing.

Senator WONG: I do not understand why people are so worried about this. I am just asking—

Ms Adamson : We are not worried about it, Senator. I just do not quite understand the purpose of your question.

Senator WONG: Well, I get to ask questions.

Senator Brandis: Senator Wong, please! Can you try to be a bit polite to the officials?

Senator WONG: I am trying to be polite.

Senator Brandis: Try harder.

Senator WONG: Oh, thank you. I appreciate the advice.

Senator Brandis: After your abuse of Mr Moraitis two nights ago, and your abuse of the secretary in the last estimates, you really ought to have a good look at yourself.

Senator WONG: I am not going to be lectured by somebody who lies to the parliament.

Senator Brandis: Withdraw that.

Senator WONG: I am not going to withdraw that.

Senator Brandis: Withdraw that.

Senator WONG: I am not going to withdraw that.

Senator Brandis: That is unparliamentary.

CHAIR: Now I ask that we return to the question.

Senator Brandis: Can I ask that that unparliamentary remark be withdrawn?

CHAIR: Are you happy to withdraw?

Senator WONG: I will do it for you, sir.

CHAIR: Thank you. Can I just ask to return. So the question is: was it a decision of the government or the cabinet? If you cannot answer the question because it predates you, Ms Adamson—

Senator WONG: No, that is not what she said.

Ms Adamson : It would simply be to repeat what I said before.

Senator WONG: This is something I asked previously. I also asked it on notice.

Ms Adamson : Yes, and we have answered it.

Senator WONG: No, you did not answer it. That is the point. I will come back to that. I am asking it again and you are taking it on notice again. I do not understand the sensitivity about a date.

Senator Brandis: It has been taken on notice, Senator Wong. That is the end of the matter.

Senator WONG: Can you tell me why question on notice No. 84 was not answered? Can I take you to the bit I am asking a question about?

Ms Adamson : Yes.

Senator WONG: Paragraph b asks:

On what date was the Secretary of DFAT advised that the Government had decided that its election commitment to produce a foreign policy strategy would be produced as a White Paper?

That question was not addressed in the answer. I am asking the same question again.

Ms Adamson : The answer is the answer that we have given and the answer that I gave last time. These terms have been used interchangeably. I met the foreign minister a couple of days before I formally commenced as secretary. We had a discussion about the department and the work that we would be doing in the period ahead. I think there was then some media coverage at that stage. There was a photograph of the two of us in her office noting the fact that I was the first female secretary to be appointed. I think there was also mention of the work that would be done on a foreign policy white paper. So that would have been 23 August.

Senator WONG: Sure. Is that your answer to b—23 August?

Ms Adamson : My answer is that I had always understood that the foreign policy strategy would be developed in the form of a white paper. That was my understanding at the time of what the government’s election commitment was. But we have used the term interchangeably.

Senator WONG: They are not interchangeable though, are they? I think we agreed last time. It is a very simple question—that is, the date on which you were advised that the strategy was produced as a white paper. I find it difficult that we have had two estimates now and a question on notice and that simple question continues to be avoided. I do not know what the sensitivities are.

Ms Adamson : There is no sensitivity, Senator.

Senator WONG: With respect, I think that there is. But that is my view.

Senator Brandis: You have just been told that there isn't.

Senator WONG: Well, I have a different view. And I'm just communicating it. Are you suggesting that there is no difference between a foreign policy strategy and a white paper?

Ms Adamson : We have used those terms interchangeably.

Senator WONG: But you would agree, would you not, as an officer with a great deal of experience, that the term ‘white paper’, as in the ‘Defence white paper’, has a particular meaning in terms of public policy development?

Ms Adamson : A white paper is formal statement of government policy, yes.

Senator WONG: So, you have used the terms interchangeably. Do you think there is a difference between a strategy and a white paper?

Ms Adamson : For the purpose of the white paper that we are now producing, I do not think that there is. On reading the platform, my assumption was that we would be producing it in the form of a white paper, just as an all-encompassing foreign policy white paper was produced in 2003. It was always my sense that that was where we were going. There was no reason to question any aspect of that.

Senator WONG: Your organisational structure as at January 2017 has Mr Maude off to the side here. I'm not critical of that. I'm just observing it. Can you just explain to me, firstly, how he is being supported in terms of his task force? How many people and so forth.

Ms Adamson : I will ask Mr Hayhurst, who you may recall from last estimates had just commenced duty at first assistant secretary level in that task force, to respond to your question.

Mr Hayhurst : The task force that Mr Maude heads has 18 staff.

Senator WONG: Is that 18 FTEs or 18 headcount?

Mr Hayhurst : I think it is in fact the same. Of those staff, 14 are from this department and four are secondees from other agencies.

Senator WONG: On notice, can you give me what sections and which departments they are from?

Mr Hayhurst : I can answer about the other departments. We have secondees from the Treasury, the Department of Prime Minister and C abinet, the Attorney-General's Department and the CSIRO. The other officers are from various divisions within the department. Mr Maude himself, of course, is on leave from his position as Director-General of the Office of National Assessments.

Ms Adamson : Can I just add that when I started to assemble the team to undertake this task, I was very keen that the opportunity to serve on the task force should be open to all staff, who would be given an opportunity to express interest. So, naturally, there are people with various elements of expertise, including in trade negotiations, trade policy, the economy, vario us countrie s strategic issues and those sorts of things. But the final makeup of the team was determined in part by th ose who wanted to be part of i t. It was in a way a competitive process because it is a significant opportunity.

Senator WONG: So you will give me the sections and the levels which the 14 DFAT staff come from and are?

Mr Hayhurst : We can do that.

Ms Adamson : We can probably come back to you on that during the day.

Mr Hayhurst : It won't take long.

Senator WONG: Thank you. Can you tell me if this is separately funded or if you are absorbing it?

Ms Adamson : I can ask Mr Wood to talk about that.

Senator WONG: Before we go there, is this fully staffed now or are you intending to fill it. What is the target FTE?

Mr Hayhurst : We are fully staffed. We are going to have some liaison officers from other key agencies that will be in contact points and might spend some time each week coming in to work in the task force itself. But the answer is, yes, we are fully staffed.

Senator WONG: But they would not be formally seconded over to DFAT.

Mr Hayhurst : That is correct.

Senator WONG: So they would still be funded by their line department.

Mr Hayhurst : That is correct.

Senator WONG: Is 18 FTEs, from your perspective, the full complement?

Mr Hayhurst : That is right.

Senator WONG: Does it have a budget for an administered expenses?

Mr Wood : No, it does not have a budget for administered expenses. The expenses the task force is incurring are departmental operating expenses.

Senator WONG: If, for example, they made a decision to contract with an economic modeller to try and look at various scenarios for China's economic trajectory, could they do that? What would be the process by which they would do that?

Mr Wood : The budget for the task force is in two components. Firstly, the staffing resources are covered by our centralised staffing budget. The operating costs for the task force were considered and agreed by the executive as part of the external budget planning process. So the task force has their own departmental operating budget and costs are incurred against that.

Senator WONG: What is the departmental operating budget?

Mr Wood : I would need to come back to you with those details.

Senator WONG: Do you include staff costs in that?

Mr Wood : That would exclude staff costs. Staff costs are centralised in the central staffing budget.

Senator WONG: Salaries and on-costs keep being paid by DFAT. It is all paid by DFAT. It is centrally allocated but then the operating budget would be for, what, travel?

Mr Wood : Correct.

Senator WONG: What about third-party contracts and so forth?

Mr Wood : I expect those would be covered. In accounting jargon, it has its own cost centre. We could come back with some details on that.

Senator WONG: Could you do that? Can you also tell me where the money was shifted from to create the operating budget?

Mr Wood : It came as part of the consideration of the departmental budget and the allocations that occur during the year. But we can come back with some advice.

Senator WONG: Thank you. In terms of reporting relationships, does the task force report to you directly or to the minister directly or both?

Ms Adamson : I have very regular meetings with members of the task force and, of course, Richard Maude and I keep our ministers very much informed. It will go through, as you would expect, a formal cabinet process through the secretaries committee on national security.

Senator WONG: I am just trying to work out, in terms of lines of reporting, if there is any change to the normal line of reporting.

Ms Adamson : There is no change.

Senator WONG: He would report to you. It does not mean that he would not go and see the minister.

Ms Adamson : Correct.

Senator WONG: So you regularly meet Mr Maude and others in that task force?

Ms Adamson : I do indeed.

Senator WONG: And the work plan and so forth is engaged with you?

Ms Adamson : Yes.

Senator WONG: Do staff in the task force report to Mr Maude?

Ms Adamson : Yes.

Senator WONG: So it is a little like a small division?

Ms Adamson : In its size it is coming close to a small division.

Senator WONG: But just in terms of reporting lines.

Ms Adamson : Yes.

Senator WONG: You said that it was a competitive process.

Ms Adamson : It was competitive in the sense that we wanted our best staff to undertake it, for the opportunity to be available to all and with a good balance between male and female colleagues. We have managed to achieve a good mix of experience and a good balance.

Senator WONG: What is the gender balance?

Mr Hayhurst : There are 11 female officers and seven male officers on the task force.

Senator WONG: Do they retain any reporting lines back to their pre-existing DFAT section?

Mr Hayhurst : No formal reporting lines but lots of liaison with other divisions. But they report within the task force to Mr Maude.

Senator WONG: I understand that the paper will not be delivered within the 12 months as was indicated. Could you give me an update of the timeline?

Mr Hayhurst : Minister Bishop has said that the white paper will be ready in August or September this year. That is the aim.

Senator WONG: And the reason for the extension?

Mr Hayhurst : I think the reason is to ensure we get the substance right.

Ms Adamson : Obviously since it was decided an d established there has been additional uncertainties evident in the international environment. As Mr Hayhurst says, we are very keen to work through those to the best of our ability so that when Minister Bishop launched the consultation process she did so explicitly saying that we were working towards an August/September deadline.

Senator WONG: I am not making a point about it; I just wanted to make sure we make that clear. You have previously referenced, Secretary, the election commitment. Are you aware as to whether or not DFAT was consulted on the timeframe that would be required for undertaking a white paper prior to that election commitment being made?

Ms Adamson : I am not aware.

Senator WONG: Can you take that on notice?

Ms Adamson : I can take that on notice, yes.

Senator WONG: You said this will go through NSC and then cabinet, as is appropriate. But prior to that point, what is the involvement of other ministers other than Minister Bishop in the white paper process?

Ms Adamson : There is a detailed cabinet process. There has already been some discussion in cabinet. This is intended to be a whole-of-government white paper so there is, for example, a reflection of the fact that all ministers ultimately will be involv ed. There is a deputy secretarie s board, I think we have called it, a whole-of-government board at deputy secretary level with a very wide range of representation. Mr Hayhurst can talk you through all the various departments if that would be helpful.

Senator WONG: We do not have a lot of time. Can you give me the deputy secretar ie s board on notice?

Ms Adamson : We can handed it over today.

Senator WONG: I appreciate that. When you say 'cabinet processes', is there a subcommittee of cabinet or is this a matter for the whole cabinet?

Ms Adamson : Because this is a whole-of-government foreign policy white paper, it is the government's intention that it will be ultimately approved by cabinet.

Senator WONG: Sure, that makes sense. I think most of them are. But the ongoing work prior to the submission that goes to cabinet saying, ‘Please tick off on the white paper’, is there a cabinet subcommittee auspicing that?

Ms Adamson : There has been no new subcommittee established.

Senator WONG: Is Ms Bishop identified as the lead minister?

Ms Adamson : Both Ms Bishop and Mr Ciobo are our lead ministers on this white paper.

Senator WONG: And the Prime Minister's role?

Ms Adamson : The Prime Minister is taking a very close interest in it and is involved in the development of it.

Senator WONG: Who briefs the Prime Minister about the white paper process? Is it you, is it Mr Maude, is it only PM&C or is it a group of you?

Ms Adamson : Mr Maude and I are briefing the Prime Minister and there will be additional briefings, I'm sure, provided by the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet. There is very regular interaction between the task force and the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet. I know the Prime Minister has been provided with regular updates. I have had several discussions with him. Mr Maude and I have also formally briefed him.

Senator WONG: On notice, can you give me the dates on which the Prime Minister has been briefed, please?

Ms Adamson : I can give you those dates.

Senator WONG: Thank you. I think I understand this, but I just want to confirm it. The reporting in relation to the task force is via you to Minister Bishop?

Ms Adamson : And Mr Ciobo.

Senator WONG: Sorry, and Mr Ciobo. So does Mr Maude participate in the briefings of Ms Bishop or is that on an as-needed basis?

Ms Adamson : No, he does. He is actively engaged. Both our ministers are actively engaged in the process. Mr Maude has been travelling quite extensively as part of the consultation process. He has been there for most meetings but I provide a weekly update to ministers. He is there for longer discussions as to themes and content.

Senator WONG: On notice, can I get the number of times the minister has met with members of the task force, the date on which she has been briefed on progress. Has the minister attended any public consultations as yet?

Ms Adamson : Yes she has. I will ask Mr Hayhurst to provide the detail.

Mr Hayhurst : Ms Bishop has attended t w o roundtable discussions as par t of the consultation process by the task force.

Senator WONG: When were they?

Mr Hayhurst : They were 3 February and 10 February this year.

Senator WONG: With who?

Mr Hayhurst : With a range of different stakeholders invited to discuss our international outlook. So it was part of a general roundtable discussion on the white paper process.

Senator WONG: Do you have a list of attendees for those or can I get them later?

Mr Hayhurst : I will have to search for the list of who actually attended.

Senator WONG: Thank you. Where were we? We were coming back to costs, weren't we?

CHAIR: You are coming back to costs from the opening statement by the secretary, which has now been tabled and is with committee members.

Senator WONG: The cost in Canberra to host the meeting will be about $70,000, covering venue costs and catering. Cost of flights and accommodation will be $1.1 million. Will people need accommodation? I suppose some of them are permanently based elsewhere, aren't they? It will be fully absorbed by DFAT. Costs offset by not holding meetings, saving about $400,000. So that would mean $700,000 additional. Is that right?

Ms Adamson : That is correct.

Senator GALLACHER: Does that include the costs of visiting the other regional areas and capitals?

Ms Adamson : Yes it does.

CHAIR: How many heads of missions are involved?

Ms Adamson : We have 113 involved in total. That includes ambassadors, high commissioners, consuls-general and some trade commissioners. Some senior trade commissioners are what we call dual hatted as consuls-general.

CHAIR: Thank you. Senator Wong.

Senator WONG: Is ground transport included in the $1.1 million?

Mr Wood : Yes.

Senator WONG: Moving on, the Sydney Morning Herald on 3 December 2016 reported a review of diplomats allowances. Are you familiar with this topic?

Ms Adamson : Yes, I am familiar with this topic.

Senator WONG: I would like to know where that is up to, what the scope of the review is, who is doing it and where it is up to.

Ms Adamson : The review was something that came out of last year's budget process. It may be something that Mr Wood can better speak to. But it has been working through a process and we are currently going through preparatory processes for the next budget.

Mr Wood : It was a decision that came out of the 2016-17 budget process. It is currently going through the 2017-18 budget process. It involves a review of allowances and entitlements of staff from the 28 agencies that have staff posted overseas.

Senator WONG: Who is doing it? Is it being done by Finance?

Mr Wood : It has been pretty much a collaborative exercise involving all of those agencies. It has gone through the bureaucratic process of an interdepartmental committee. Obviously we have had to work very closely with agencies across the Commonwealth. It is now going through a cabinet budget process.

Senator GALLACHER: Is it benched off of Canberra prices? Is that how it works? So whatever Canberra costs, a post is measured against Canberra? So a locality will measure expense there to what something similar would cost in Canberra. Is there some threshold change here?

Mr Wood : One of the key things it has looked at is consistency of the application of allowances across the Commonwealth and how those are benchmarked with other foreign services, the private sector and others. As you are aware, there are a variety of different allowances and different agencies pay them in different ways. It has looked at greater consistency and standardisation.

Senator GALLACHER: I don't want to be too complicated about it. My understanding was that if you were in Canberra and went to a shop, it cost you this. If you are in Nairobi and you go to a shop, you should not be disadvantaged. Has that threshold position changed?

Mr Wood : I could not comment in terms of what the review is saying. But it certainly looked at cost of living allowances and the method of calculation of those.

Ms Adamson : If I could just add that you are correct that the comparisons through the cost of living aspect of living of this compares costs i n where ever the country we are measuring ourselves against compared with Australia. That is done not by us but that part of it is outsourced, as it is with many companies and governments. There are people that look at indices of costs of living.

Senator GALLACHER: My only point is if the threshold is changing.

Ms Adamson : No.

Senator GALLACHER: My simple understanding is that if you are in Canberra, you have to live. If you are posted somewhere else you should not be disadvantaged. Is that threshold changing?

Ms Adamson : My understanding is not that cost of living element. I just want to make sure that there is no deeper technical aspect. But that is the broad principle.

Mr Wood : That is correct. But I do stress that it is still going through the cabinet process.

Senator WONG: Sure. There is a process set in place in the 2016-17 budget which says you go away and come back for the next budget with a proposition. Correct? These need to be reviewed and E R C needs to consider that review. Is that correct? I appreciate that there is collaboration from all the agencies. But the outcome of that review, is the author of it Finance or DFAT?

Mr Wood : The submission is being taken forward by the foreign affairs portfolio.

Senator WONG: So it is your submission. You have made a decision, having done the review, and then DFAT makes a decision about which aspects of that they pick up. Is that correct? Here is a review of all the entitlements. Foreign affairs makes a decision about which aspect of change that is identified as a possibility they choose to put forward. Is that correct?

Mr Wood : As I stressed, the review involved all government agencies. It came to some agreed positions and those are currently going through the cabinet process.

Senator WONG: Obviously government will make its decision, and if there is a decision that goes to this there will be a budget measure to point to. Did the review process generate a report or document that preceded the cabinet submission?

Mr Wood : There is a report that is part of the cabinet submission process.

Senator WONG: Are you proposing to make any aspect of that report public?

Mr Wood : That would not be for me. It is part of the cabinet submission process.

Senator WONG: Sure. I understand that now. You have done a review of all these entitlements. There has been a bit of a press report about it. And I am not in a position to judge. I do not know what all of the entitlements are so I cannot make a comment about community expectations, which is obviously one of the issues that is raised publicly. I am just trying to get a sense, in light of that, of what if anything is likely to be made public out of this process. It might be a question for you, Secretary.

Ms Adamson : After the budget there will be an announcement, I expect, of the results of the review. As Mr Wood says, it is currently very much a cabinet process.

Senator WONG: I think I have understood that and I have tried to separate that. I understand cabinet process and a decision in the budget. But at any point post that, is the government or the department proposing to be transparent about the extent of the review and respond to assertions about entitlements not being in line with community expectations?

Ms Adamson : After budget night the affected staff of the 28 agencies will be informed of the outcomes of the government's deliberations.

Mr Wood : Once decisions are made they will need to be implemented by those agencies. They have their own enterprise agreements and will need to work closely across the Commonwealth to implement that.

Senator WONG: Can you tell me who the 28 agencies are?

Mr Wood : I would be happy to provide that. They range from the Maritime Safety Authority to DFAT.

Ms Adamson : Some of them have very small representation in one or two posts.

Senator WONG: It is a lot more than I would have thought

Ms Adamson : That is how you get to that number. Our biggest post would typically have 14 or 15 agencies. But the variation in those are from specific ones that have a particular presence.

Mr Wood : There are probably five that constitute about 90 per cent, so that Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, the Department of Immigration and Border Protection, the Department of Defence and the Australian Federal Police. They are probably the largest and then there is Attorney-General’s Department, Department of Health, Treasury and Finance.

Senator WONG: Are there differences between agencies in terms of allowances and entitlements for overseas-based staff?

Mr Wood : Yes.

Senator WONG: Has the government made a policy to seek to standardise them or is that still a matter for decision?

Mr Wood : That is a matter for decision.

Senator WONG: Chair, I have some questions about aid and trajectory. It would be helpful to me, though, if I could have a look at the table before. I do not know if there are other senators who might want to give me time to have a look at that. Before we get to that, apart from Mr Wood, who is always very helpful, who can I ask the aid trajectory questions of? Is it all bottom up, as it were, from Mr Wood?

Mr Wood : I do not know if I would like to be characterised as ‘bottom up’.

Senator WONG: No, that is a compliment from a former Finance Minister. It means it is very accurate. You know, you build up the figures.

CHAIR: Could I just return to the global heads of missions meeting, because I think it is of critical importance. You mentioned costs. I am particularly interested from the trade and investment point of view to understand how, in bringing together of all of the diplomats from around the world—and I know they will feed into the white paper process—they will advise government in terms of the uncertainties that we have seen in recent times, for example, the decision of the British to exit the EU, Mr Trump now as the President of the United States and the issues going on in Europe. I am anxious to know how you think the coming together of this group of senior diplomats is going to assist government in a formulation for the future. Can you give some advice please?

Ms Adamson : Certainly, thank you for the question. A part of what we are expecting heads of mission to do will be to engage actively on both our assessment of the global environment as it particularly relates to our export markets and our ability to negotiate free-trade agreements. So heads of mission will come with a very firsthand sense of the trade policies being implemented by their governments. Of course, those heads of mission coming from EU countries will be very much thinking of the implication of Brexit and the way in which that may feed into our particular interests, notably our plans already continuing to be able to launch free trade agreement negotiations with the European Union and, of course, after it has exited the EU, with the UK itself.

So I would expect those heads of missions to be able to bring a sense of the governments of which they are accredited to the meeting. Similarly, all of our heads of mission will be very much focused on opportunities for Australian exporters for two way investment, nontariff measures. The heads of mission in Tokyo, Seoul and Beijing will be bringing back a first-hand sense of the benefits that are flowing from the free trade agreements which have been negotiated over the last few years. That will be very much to the fore.

But we will also be looking for them to think innovatively. Are there new market opportunities and areas where we have not previously concentrated on? Are there new potential arrangements that we can reach through the World Trade Organisation. Although the Doha round has not been able to be successfully completed and there really is no end in sight, there nevertheless is scope for, and some has been achieved, greater harmonisation and tidying up of arrangements which ultimately benefit Australian exporters.

CHAIR: How would you give effect to this? For example, I had a long discussion just recently with our ambassador to the Netherlands in The Hague. It was by telephone. He shared with me a number of the opportunities that are now evident, if you like, in continental Europe as a result of decisions made by the British government. It causes me to ask, how are these colleagues going to share this information with each other and with officials and indeed with those of us in the parliamentary process? Is each being asked to prepare a sort of briefing note to which they can either speak or that can be circulated so we can all get the benefit of this?

Ms Adamson : All heads of mission have been asked to provide input into the process. Of course, they regularly feed back their views. But the real benefit of this will be in the coming together of all of them and the interactions that takes place between them. We are certainly, as I said in answer to Senator Wong's question, very focused on drawing the essence of their views on these things and being able to feed them into the white paper process. I am hopeful that they will have particular policy ideas and suggestions which the government will be able to consider and take forward. I am also very strongly of the view that while they are here our heads of mission need to be able to talk to and explain-whether it is to the business roundtables, community groups or in many of the areas where they will be engaging-the benefits of the government's current policies and also the fact that we are looking to develop, in areas where it is sensible to do so in light of current uncertainties, new policies.

CHAIR: I am ready to go back to you when you are ready, Senator Wong. Can I just indicates to you that I have suggested to Senator Abetz that at 10.20 I will pass to him for 10 minutes prior to morning tea.

Senator WONG: Mr McDonald, can I go to question on notice 110, which is about ODA and GNI.

Mr McDonald : Yes, I have that.

Senator WONG: Thank you for providing that. I appreciate it. You gave me the share of GNI over the four years of the forward estimates. It is currently 0.23, in 2017-18 it is 0.22, in 2018-19 it is 0.22, in 2019-20 it is 0.21. It says 21 per cent but I assume it is meant to be 0.21. I think it is a typo. Is it correct to say that in order to identify that you have applied the government's policy of CPI indexation to the aid budget. Is that correct?

Mr McDonald : The figures in the forward estimates are based on a 2.5 per cent CPI.

Senator WONG: The CPI is currently 1.5 per cent.

Mr McDonald : Yes. Sorry, in terms of the forward estimates and what was put in as part of the last budget, it was assumed that the increase over the forward estimates would be based on a CPI increase of 2.5 per cent.

Senator WONG: If that parameter is adjusted in this budget, all other things being equal, the GNI percentage will actually be reduced.

Mr McDonald : Until we get that final figure you cannot actually assume that it would drop.

Senator WONG: Mr McDonald, if the CPI is lower than the assumed percentage, which is 2.5, unless GNI moves—and I am saying all other things being equal—the percentage of GNI that Australia actually has in its aid budget will reduce.

Mr McDonald : Yes, but GNI could shift as well, as you know.

Senator WONG: What are you assuming? What is the assumption for GNI?

Mr McDonald : I do not have that figure. Mr Wood might have it.

Mr Wood : We use the information provided by the Treasury for the GNI figure to derive that calculation.

Senator WONG: Can you remind me of what that is roughly?

Mr Wood : I do not have the GNI figure with me. Obviously we could reverse engineer it. We are given information and passed on the dollar value of the ODA budget, which increases up to $4.1 billion in 2019-20.

Senator WONG: Is it possible over the break, so that we know what the orange is, if you know what I mean—in terms of the apples and oranges—for someone to just remind me what the GNI figure that is used is? Is it your understanding that the CPI figure—and they are using the long-run average—is 2.5? That is a full percentage point higher than the current CPI. Is that correct?

Mr Wood : The 2.5 per cent figure was derived a couple of years ago when we set the forward estimates for the aid project. This was after the large reductions that we had in the aid program.

Senator MOORE: Was that 2014-15?

Mr Wood : That would have been that year.

Mr McDonald : That was actually MYEFO.

Senator WONG: That is a very useful answer, actually. Is the CPI figure for the aid program, for the calculation for the purposes of the policy decision to link aid growth only to CPI and not GNI, different to the economic parameter in the budget? Do you see what I am saying? I do not have BP No.1 here, but it will say CPI, or whatever the correct name is. Is that what is used for the purpose of the indexation of the aid budget or is there a separate policy decision to apply 2.5 per cent to the aid budget?

Mr Wood : It is separate. The information that we previously provided around the growth of the aid program, that is what we are currently using for our budget estimates.

Senator WONG: So the policy decision is essentially referenced to CPI but it is actually 2.5 per cent.

Mr Wood : That is the growth. So it is roughly $100 million per annum.

Senator WONG: Absent a policy decision by government that is separate from any movement in the official CPI figures that are used in the budget?

Mr Wood : Correct. As you would have noticed in the portfolio additional estimates statements, there were no changes to the official development assistance budget.

Senator WONG: Will you get me the GNI figure?

Mr McDonald : Yes.

Senator WONG: I thought you gave us three, and you have given us two. Are you laughing at me?

Mr Wood : I know that shaking your head does not show up in Hansard. No, we generally do provide two tables—one for the current year and one for forward estimates.

Senator WONG: But it is the case, isn't it, that for internal working purposes, you go beyond the forward estimates?

Mr McDonald : Rarely. Depending on the extent of the program. If it is a longer program, say an announcement of a 10-year program, yes, we build that in going forward. But, normally, across the program we would not go outside the forward estimates.

Senator WONG: Is there any public articulation of where aid will get to? I thought that there was a 2025 figure?

Mr McDonald : I am not aware of that. I know that historically in estimates we give you the information across the forward estimates.

Senator WONG: Sorry, I am not talking about the table now. Another publication. Has the government articulated where aid will be by 2025?

Mr McDonald : Not to my recollection, but we can check.

Mr Wood : Budget Paper No. 1 just covers the forward estimates.

Senator WONG: Do you have any internal working estimates, assuming the 2.5 per cent policy decision, about where aid will get to as a proportion of GNI beyond the forward estimates?

Mr Wood : No, we just concentrate on this year and the forward estimates

Senator WONG: What about you, Mr McDonald?

Mr McDonald : No, I do not.

Senator WONG: But PBO costings, which are sought, obviously consult with you about the assumptions beyond the forward estimates. So you must have something that you can provide.

Mr McDonald : It depends on the assumptions, as you said earlier.

Senator WONG: I am asking you what assumptions you work with.

Mr McDonald : I have not worked with any assumptions beyond the forward estimates, which ,as you rightly pointed out, are a CPI increase of 2.5 per cent. Beyond that, I think it would be difficult for us to forecast it.

Senator WONG: If the PBO are asked for a costing in relation to aid going forward over the decade, they would obviously consult with you. Is it your assumption that the 2.5 per cent continues indefinitely?

Mr Wood : Generally when we deal with the Parliamentary Budget Office we just refer to the forward estimates and just refer to information that is in our portfolio budget statements.

Senator WONG: Not always.

Mr Wood : Generally when we deal with the Parliamentary Budget Office.

Senator WONG: Has DFAT calculated any GNI percentage figures, assuming that the policy position remains the same, out to 2024?

Mr Wood : No.

Senator WONG: How about you, Mr McDonald?

Mr McDonald : No.

Senator WONG: GNI growth, which we are going to get, is higher than 2.5 per cent, isn't it?

Mr Wood : I do not know.

Senator WONG: Yes, you do. You are good with numbers.

Mr Wood : I generally concentrate on our numbers and not the Treasurer's.

Senator WONG: Well, these are kind of your numbers, aren't they? If the aid budget declines as a proportion of GNI over the forward estimates, then, clearly, GNI must be growing at a level greater than 2.5 per cent. Do we agree on that?

Mr Wood : I do not have the GNI figures, so I will take your word for it.

Senator WONG: It is maths. And you are better at maths than me. Mr McDonald, doesn't the government's current policy trajectory, assuming GNI remains above CPI, mean that we are on a trajectory that will mean an ever declining proportion of GNI in aid?

Mr McDonald : As I said earlier, if you assume those policy parameters. At the moment, the only policy parameters we have lead to the forward estimates. What the GNI is at the end of those forward estimates—

Senator WONG: Which is a reduction.

Mr McDonald : Yes. As we answered in the question, down to 0.21 of GNI.

Senator WONG: What you show in the question is from 2012-13 to 2016-17 the aid budget has decreased by 24.2 per cent. Is that about $1 billion per year? Can you just give me a nominal figure?

Mr McDonald : I have to be very careful with this because the reductions have varied year to year. The 2015-16 budget was around a $1 billion reduction. This year the reduction is about $200 million. The year before that I do not have the exact figure. Mr Wood might have it.

Mr Wood : There was a useful time series table in response to question 20 from Senator Lambie from those October estimates that describes the ODA budget from 2006-07 to 2015-16 and then the expected ODA up to 2019-20.

Senator WONG: Perhaps the secretary can get that for me shortly. She might be asking. They will get it for us. I suspect that she is asking for different reasons. But that is her entitlement. That is her role.

CHAIR: If you could pause now, that would be great, Senator Wong, and I will go to Senator Abetz up until morning tea.

Senator ABETZ: Thank you. I have a brief bracket of questions. Can I start by asking how much taxpayers' money the department spends on lecture tours by assisting individuals when they go overseas? Is there a particular budget for that?

Ms Adamson : This falls broadly within the public diplomacy budget. There is no separate line item for lecture tours. Decisions about how public diplomacy budgets are spent are very much driven by considerations at posts in the country of accreditation about what is needed to best project Australia in the way in which we want the government and people of that country to see us. That in turn is informed by our national interest. They may relate to trade or investment or immigration or a wide range of issues. But broadly that is the concept.

Senator ABETZ: Alright. So what input does the department have in relation to those people's speeches, if any?

Ms Adamson : The department does not vet the speeches. I can speak from my days in China where we would occasionally have Australian scientists, young female engineers or sports men and women. It would become clear that they were coming to China for a particular reason and we could invite them. Posts would then join together and establish a public speaking program, a program of engagement. We would then carefully monitor the impact of that and make judgements about its value.

Senator ABETZ: Do you monitor what is actually said by these people at public functions?

Ms Adamson : Typically, yes. A post would accompany a speaker during the course of the program.

Senator ABETZ: So the department would therefore be available to advise as to what people may or may not have said in there public appearances.

Ms Adamson : Yes.

Senator ABETZ: What sort of support is given? As I understand it, usually they have to pay their own travel expenses. Is that correct?

Ms Adamson : It depends. There are a wide variety of ways of doing this. Under our public diplomacy program we will sometimes be in a position to fund travel costs and airfares. On occasions, sponsorship would be available. If we became aware that a speaker of note was travelling to the country under their own steam for a particular reason, I might ask them if they would be prepared to extend their travel in order to do some public diplomacy work. So there is no single template for this.

Senator ABETZ: Alright. It can be fluid.

Ms Adamson : Each case is settled on its particular circumstance.

Senator ABETZ: That is understood. In the last 12 months, how many people have we assisted under the public diplomacy program? Can I call it a program or public diplomacy efforts? What do we call it so we do not talk past each other?

Mr Tranter : We do refer to it as the department's public diplomacy program. It comprises a range of activities.

Senator ABETZ: Alright. Can I just call it 'the program' for the purposes of this hearing? How many people have you assisted under the program in the past 12 months?

Mr Tranter : We would have to take that detail on notice.

Senator ABETZ: Is it a handful or a dozen? Get me the detail or the exact number on notice.

Mr Tranter : It would be a large number and it would comprise tours by Australian sports, science, cultural and media professionals and organisations.

Senator ABETZ: If you could take on notice how many and who were assisted and the cost in relation for each one.

Ms Adamson : As we are both being careful about the language we are using—

Senator ABETZ: Yes. Quickly, for the record, Senator Moore would like that extended for three years.

Ms Adamson : Certainly.

Senator ABETZ: I am trying to save costs here by only asking for 12 months. But the Labor Party always spend up big and want three years.

Ms Adamson : It is certainly more efficient to do them as one transaction. If I could just say, I think you cast the question in terms of us assisting them. In fact, they are assisting us—

Senator ABETZ: Of course.

Ms Adamson : by agreeing to do this, sometimes at a personal inconvenience. But we regard them as working with us. I would just like to correct that.

Senator ABETZ: So how do we get these people?

Ms Adamson : Through a wide variety of ways. Normally public diplomacy teams at posts are alert to particular opportunities and needs.

Senator ABETZ: The people usually approach the department, don't they?

Ms Adamson : No, not necessarily.

Senator ABETZ: No, I said 'usually' they approach the department.

Ms Adamson : From my own experience, but we will certainly ask Mr Tranter to check, the majority of these public diplomacy programs, this element of it, is generated by posts recognising that there is a need to do whatever it is. We might, as I did once in China, directly approach people or we become aware through other reasons that they are travelling. Publicity is given for a particular thing, a notification that they are giving a lecture.

Senator ABETZ: If it is not too much work, for the one year and the three years for Senator Moore, if you could just let us know, if you can, how the department became aware—whether the department approached the person or whether the person approached the department for assistance for the particular involvement in the program.

Ms Adamson : We will do our best, but I think, as you acknowledge, it may not always be possible to say.

Senator ABETZ: I accept that. In relation to Ms Abdel-Magied's tour, can you advise us whether she was approached or whether she approached the department?

Mr Tranter : In the case of that particular visit, that was brought about through the initiative of our Middle East embassies, led by our mission in Abu Dhabi in the UAE. The program was shaped in line with the region's public diplomacy priorities to reflect the department's public diplomacy strategy.

Senator ABETZ: Did they approach Ms Abdel-Magied to undertake it or was she on a tour in any event?

Mr Tranter : No, the department, through those embassies, approached Ms Abdel-Magied.

Senator ABETZ: So who paid for her travel?

Mr Tranter : Her international travel to the region was sponsored by Qantas, and the department, through the budgets of our embassies in the region, paid for her domestic travel.

Senator ABETZ: Travel, accommodation, incidentals?

Mr Tranter : Travel and accommodation only.

Senator ABETZ: Alright, if you can give me the costs associated with that in due course on notice.

Mr Tranter : I have the details now.

Senator ABETZ: Do you have an in globo figure rather than spending time, because I am hoping to be out of here by 10.30.

Mr Tranter : It was $11,485.

Senator ABETZ: If you can give me the split up on notice.

Ms Adamson : We can table that in the course of the day.

Senator ABETZ: Thank you. Did Ms Abdel-Magied speak, for example, against the death penalty anywhere?

Mr Tranter : I am not aware that she spoke directly to that point.

Senator ABETZ: What about female genital mutilation?

Mr Tranter : Her key messages were to promote Australia as a destination for investment and education.

Senator ABETZ: No, I asked a specific question. Because you told us before that the public speeches are monitored, so that the department would be aware of whether those topics were mentioned. Given the laws in some of the countries visited, I am just wondering whether this speaker spoke against the death penalty or spoke against female genital mutilation at any stage or, indeed, the oppression of women at any stage in some of these countries.

Ms Adamson : We will certainly take that on notice, but if I could just say, they are all positions and policies which our embassies and posts in the region would be advocating to host governments. We would be making representations on those things.

Senator ABETZ: I am aware of that. I am asking about this person.

Ms Adamson : I would not expect a speaker who is engaged for the particular purpose that Ms Tranter has outlined to raise those issues. But, as I said, we will take your question on notice.

Senator ABETZ: She comes here to tell us on Q&A that Islam is the most feminist religion of all. So I am just wondering if she did the other in those countries and invited comment or consideration of policies where, you know, women cannot get driver's licences et cetera in some of the countries visited. I was just wondering as to what the actual message was, that in Australia there is untold freedom, that women can get drivers licences, you do not get stoned for adultery or being a homosexual and that female genital mutilation is just completely unacceptable and in fact outlawed; that is why Australia is one of the greatest countries in the world. I am just wondering whether any of those things actually found their way into this particular tour by Ms Abdel-Magied?

Mr Tranter : I can give you a sense of the messages promoted through the visit.

Senator ABETZ: Can I ask whether these topics were approached. Time is very short now. So if you can take on notice for me whether the topics I have just raised were topics that were included in her speeches.

Mr Tranter : In general terms, the visit promoted Australia as a destination for investment and education. Ms Abdel-Magied also promoted the role of women in male dominated industries such as science, technology and engineering, drawing on her background as a mechanical engineer. She also met with female activists in the region, including in Saudi Arabia with activists who were promoting—

Senator ABETZ: You are telling me everything other than about the most egregious matters that are very oppressive in some of the societies and countries which she visited. But I am very mindful of the fact that we have already clicked past 10.30. So if you could take it on notice, I would be much obliged.

CHAIR: You have undertaken to take that on notice and provide the information.

Senator MOORE: I will have a couple of follow-up questions on that at a later time, and I will tell Senator Abetz that.

CHAIR: No problem. We will now suspend for morning tea until 10.45.

Proceedings suspended from 10:30 to 10:45

CHAIR: In resumption, Senator Wong.

Senator WONG: Mr McDonald, thank you for those tables. Just remind me if this is elsewhere in the budget and if not can I have it on notice? Mr Wood, back to your activity approval amount and committed. Thank you for those. Is there somewhere in the budget where I can actually see over the forward estimates the total amounts appropriated or allocated specifically for east Asia, south-west Asia, et cetera? I just couldn’t remember if that was in the PBS.

Mr Wood : No, it is close to. We have expanded disclosure on that on page 26.

Senator WONG: Just hang on. Is this the PBS or additional estimates?

Mr Wood : I can refer to either, but the most recent is the portfolio additional estimates statements.

Senator WONG: Thank you.

Mr Wood : It is on page 26, table 2.12.

Senator WONG: Table 1.21?

Mr Wood : The heading at the top of the page is table 2.12.

Senator WONG: So I would be asking you to disaggregate each of those into the administered regions that are in these tables. Can you do that on notice?

Mr Wood : We can take that on notice. As you will recall, we didn't previously disclose this information in as much detail and we have just broken that down.

Senator WONG: No, that is actually really helpful. It used to be in the blue book or the aid book. The Orange book. Sorry, I can't keep up with all of it. I would have thought Conservatives would have liked the blue book, Chair.

Mr Wood : We also had vastly more programs and there was a consolidation of the program structure on integration.

Senator WONG: What can you give me?

Mr Wood : A breakdown by the regions would be the most useful, without getting into individual countries because that fluctuates quite a bit.

Senator WONG: Yes, I think you told me that before. Because that would enable me to compare this against the annual allocation. Is that alright.

Mr Wood : We can take that on notice.

Senator WONG: Yes, take it on notice. Thank you very much. I want to turn to Prime Minister Abe’s visit, which I think was 14 and 15 January. Is that correct?

Ms Adamson : That is correct.

Senator WONG: Can you tell me when DFAT was advised of the fact that the visit was going to occur?

Mr Fletcher : We were advised in early December that a visit was likely.

Senator WONG: By whom?

Mr Fletcher : The Japanese government.

Senator WONG: What was the nature of the visit that you were advised of? Was it just the Prime Minister attending? Was the original intent to have another minister?

Mr Fletcher : Under our special strategic relationship with Japan, prime ministers usually exchange visits every second year. So we expected Mr Abe would be able to visit in 2016. In the event, it was not possible so his visit was put off until January.

Senator WONG: Is the special strategic partnership called the SSP? What do you call it?

Mr Fletcher : We just call it the special strategic partnership. We only have one.

Senator WONG: How many prime ministerial visits have been held under the special strategic partnership?

Mr Fletcher : I will have to take that on notice. Prime Minister Turnbull visited Japan in late 2015. I think Prime Minister Abe visited Australia in 2014. Prior to that, I don’t remember. But we can take that on notice.

Ms Adamson : Of course, meetings take place in the margins of various summits like the G20.

Senator WONG: I appreciate that. Is this an AUSMIN equivalent?

Ms Adamson : It is an annual arrangement to which they are both strongly committed.

Senator WONG: When was the annual arrangement first entered in to?

Mr Fletcher : I think in 2013, but I will take that on notice and confirm it.

Senator WONG: Have you been involved in all of them?

Ms Adamson : I am just saying we can get back today on that.

Senator WONG: Sure. I am just trying to get a sense of it. Mr Fletcher, you were in China for a period of time, weren’t you? Were you involved in prior meetings?

Mr Fletcher : No.

Senator WONG: Do you know if the foreign minister attended the 2014 or the 2015 meeting?

Mr Fletcher : No.

Senator WONG: You don’t know or she didn’t.

Mr Fletcher : I don’t know that. But I can take it on notice.

Ms Adamson : I can help you with the answer, but Mr Fletcher will check the details. The 2015 visit took place on 18 December in Tokyo.

Senator WONG: You just got that off the top of your head. Impressive!

Ms Adamson : I did. It was a week before Christmas. It stayed in my mind.

Senator WONG: Okay.

Ms Adamson : The foreign minister was not present. In fact, in our system it is very unusual for a foreign minister to travel overseas with the Prime Minister, as you know. In some other countries it is routine, but not in ours. Whether or not the foreign minister is involved when a leader visits Australia will depend very much on the timing of the meeting—where it is and all of the rest of it. The Prime Minister is normally very inclusive when it comes to these things. So she would often be there, but not always. It depends on the time or year, where else she is and what is going on.

Senator WONG: At which point did the department become aware that Ms Bishop would be joining Mr Turnbull on 14 January?

Mr Fletcher : After the new year break. I think it was the week beginning 9 January.

Senator WONG: The Japanese foreign minister was not in attendance in that meeting, is that correct? Her counterpart was not in attendance.

Mr Fletcher : No.

Ms Adamson : I know it sounds a bit complicated and slightly arcane, but there are some governments where heads of state always travel with foreign ministers. There are others where that is not the case. The Japanese do not usually travel with the foreign minister.

Senator WONG: Who attended from DFAT from the meeting?

Mr Fletcher : The acting Secretary, Jenifer Rawson.

Senator WONG: You were on leave at that time?

Ms Adamson : Yes.

Senator WONG: Were you in attendance, Mr Fletcher?

Mr Fletcher : No.

Senator WONG: So DFAT was advised on the week beginning 9 January?

Mr Fletcher : Yes. We told both of our ministers’ offices about the visit prior to Christmas. but the timing had not been finalised until, I think, straight after the new year when we then got advice of what was being proposed in Sydney and we kept both ministers’ offices advised of that. There was a business delegation travelling with the Japanese Prime Minister. There was a business conference kind of event held as well on the day in Sydney.

Senator WONG: How did DFAT become advised that the foreign minister would be attending? Was it from the PMO or was it the FMO?

Mr Fletcher : No, from the foreign minister’s office.

Senator WONG: Was that by phone call or by brief?

Mr Fletcher : I think by phone call.

Senator WONG: Were any additional arrangements required as a result of that?

Mr Fletcher : I will have to take that on notice.

Ms Adamson : Could you just explain what you have in mind by additional arrangements?

Senator WONG: What was I meaning?

Ms Adamson : Yes.

Senator WONG: Was she intending to be there? Did her attendance require any changes to arrangements? That is all.

Mr Fletcher : I don’t believe so. We had, I think, one or two people up in Sydney to help with the non-prime ministerial elements of the visit. They were going there anyway. I think the Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment was also present for part of the program.

Senator WONG: But Mr Ciobo didn’t attend the prime ministerial meeting?

Mr Fletcher : No, he was at one of the business events.

Senator WONG: Did the foreign minister attend the prime ministerial meeting.

Mr Fletcher : No.

Senator WONG: I’m sorry; I’ve been working under an incorrect assumption.

Mr Fletcher : She attended a reception that the Prime Ministers hosted. Sorry, I will have to take on notice whether she was in the official meeting.

Senator WONG: Is there anyone here who might be able to assist?

Ms Adamson : We will chat with the acting secretary, who was present, and get back to you quite quickly.

Senator WONG: Okay. I might come back to that, Chair. So if somebody else wants to ask something.

CHAIR: Yes, Senator Kitching.

Senator KITCHING: You said, Mr Fletcher, that you became aware in the week of 9 January that the foreign minister was going to attend.

Mr Fletcher : During that week, yes.

Senator KITCHING: Are you aware whether the foreign minister was going to attend an event in Melbourne?

Mr Fletcher : No.

Senator KITCHING: So DFAT was not looped in on that?

Mr Fletcher : I will have to take that on notice. The north Asia division I do not think was aware of any other travel plans that were happening that week for the foreign minister.

Senator KITCHING: Ms Adamson?

Ms Adamson : No. All I would say is that during what was obviously a holiday time in Australia, the department would not normally have visibility necessarily of every element of the foreign minister’s diary. From the point of view of the talks, Mr Fletcher would not have had broader visibility of where else she might have been unless it related specifically to an element of his division. As I have said, I was on leave at the time.

Senator KITCHING: You may be aware that it was a matter of notoriety that the foreign minister was going to be in Melbourne to attend the polo in Portsea. I am very happy to table the invitation.

CHAIR: Be very careful about what you read, Senator Kitching. Perhaps the officials could assist by inquiring of the foreign minister whether there were any plans by the foreign minister to visit Melbourne. I think that might assist the committee in its understanding. My understanding is that there were not. An invitation to a polo match does not necessarily mean that the foreign minister was going to attend. Perhaps it would have been more appropriate in my capacity as a veterinarian that I should have attended.

Senator KITCHING: I am sure you would have been useful, Chair.

CHAIR: I might have fallen off the horse.

Senator Brandis: It would have done the polo ponies no end of good to have you there.

CHAIR: I think it could have been an animal welfare issue.

Senator KITCHING: Certainly there were reports that the sponsors and a clothing company, namely Hugo Boss, were expecting the foreign minister’s attendance. I am interested in the evidence of whether you knew that the foreign minister was, on the week beginning 9 January, going to attend Prime Minister Abe’s visit. You can’t be more specific about that date?

Mr Fletcher : I think it was 12 January that it was finalised.

Senator KITCHING: When did the first call come through? Was it on that day? Was it a series of discussions on the 12th?

Mr Fletcher : I will have to take that on notice.

Senator KITCHING: That is only two days notice, isn’t it? The program of events concerning Prime Minister Abe was 14 January?

Mr Fletcher : Yes. The final dates of his visit had moved a little and things were finalised and settled quite close to the time.

Senator KITCHING: Is it unusual that the foreign minister would give two days notice for a prime ministerial visit from our only special strategic partnership country?

Mr Fletcher : No, it is not unusual. We find the arrangements for high-level visits are usually flexible or fluid quite up until the last minute.

Senator KITCHING: As a point of comparison, when did you realise that Mr Ciobo would be involved in the program of events?

Mr Fletcher : I would have to take that on notice. I am just going to—

Senator KITCHING: It was not on 12 January though, was it?

Mr Fletcher : I think it was also in that week.

Senator KITCHING: Okay. That is interesting. We might look at Mr Ciobo's diary.

Mr Fletcher : It was the January period. Not a lot of people are around and things needed finalising at the last minute.

Ms Adamson : Can I just confirm that we have been advised that the foreign minister was not, in fact, as Mr Fletcher said, at the Prime Minister's meeting with Prime Minister Abe. She attended the reception at Kirribilli House and the Australia Japan business council dinner. From my point of view as secretary that is an absolutely normal level of engagement with a prime ministerial visit. As Mr Fletcher said, on the arrangements for these things, although they are expected—we will expect a visit roughly around this time—foreign leaders will often wait until very late in the piece before confirming their arrangements. That requires a certain nimbleness on our part to bring things together.

Senator KITCHING: You will not be aware, Ms Adamson, but Senator Brandis and I have already had discussions this week about soirees—what is a soiree, what is a cocktail party and what is a birthday cake function. So she attended a reception. That was an evening reception?

Ms Adamson : Receptions are normally held in the evening, but let me confirm whether this particular reception, as the visit was a short one, was actually held at that time. Mr Fletcher may know.

Mr Fletcher : It was held at 5.30—from 5.30 to 6.30.

Senator KITCHING: I think Senator Brandis might feel that is a soiree.

Senator Brandis: I am sorry, Senator—I am not quite sure what the important point you are making is.

Senator KITCHING: What I am asking is: did she fly from Perth and she was actually diverted from Melbourne, because in fact she was going to go to the Portsea Polo, but, in the light of Sussan Ley's entitlements scandal, she thought she had better look like she was coming over to the west coast in order to actually look like she was doing some work?

Senator Brandis: Please do not trivialise this. The foreign minister did not have any travel bookings to Melbourne for the Portsea Polo in January 2017 and therefore did not cancel any travel bookings.

Senator KITCHING: No car bookings?

Senator Brandis: I am advised by the department that the foreign minister did not have any travel bookings.

Senator KITCHING: From Perth to—

Senator Brandis: To Melbourne for the Portsea Polo in January 2017.

Senator KITCHING: She may have been late in making those arrangements and then just changed her arrangements.

Senator Brandis: Do I have to say this three times? The foreign minister did not have any travel bookings to Melbourne for the Portsea Polo in January 2017.

Senator KITCHING: Would it have been possible for the foreign minister to have attended some aspects—and now we know that she in fact attended a very limited part of Prime Minister Abe's visit; she attended the reception at 5.30 on the 14th, was it?

Ms Adamson : The foreign minister attended a completely normal part of a prime ministerial—

Senator KITCHING: I am not asking whether it was normal. I am just saying that it was limited in time. It was not extensive—she was not there—

Ms Adamson : It was a very brief visit and she participated in those aspects of the program which would be normal for her to participate in.

Senator KITCHING: Again, I am not asking about the normalcy of the attendance. I understand the visit was brief. But she attended the reception and that was at 5.30 on the 14th. That is it?

Ms Adamson : And the business dinner.

Senator KITCHING: And the business dinner, which was also on the 14th?

Ms Adamson : Yes.

Senator KITCHING: So she was in Sydney for the evening—yes? Let us say early evening.

Ms Adamson : She attended a reception and dinner in Sydney on Saturday 14.

Senator KITCHING: She did not attend anything else though. Would it have been possible for the foreign minister to attend for the evening of the 14th and then still attend the polo? You can take that on notice.

CHAIR: Can I just confirm: the foreign minister had no travel plans to go to Melbourne to a polo match, did not go to a polo match and went to Sydney for the functions we have spoken about. Any speculation about what might have happened before or after the polo match are speculation because the foreign minister did not attend and was not going to attend the polo.

Senator KITCHING: Then I will go back to the 2016 polo.

Senator Brandis: As well, as the secretary has said, the foreign minister's participation in the visit of the Japanese prime minister was the normal level of participation of a foreign minister in a visit of that character.

CHAIR: Is there anything else on this matter?

Senator KITCHING: Yes. When Minister Bishop did attend the polo in 2016, was she there in her official capacity as foreign minister?

Ms Adamson : I would have to take that question on notice.

Senator KITCHING: And, if she did, what was the nature of the business she conducted at the polo which constituted ministerial business?

Ms Adamson : I will answer that too.

Senator KITCHING: How many times has Minister Bishop attended the Portsea Polo as foreign minister?

Ms Adamson : We will include that.

Senator KITCHING: Minister Bishop has attended the Melbourne Cup. Has she attended as foreign minister? I would say that, from media coverage, just to help, it certainly seems that she has been there for three consecutive years at the Melbourne Cup.

Senator Brandis: It is very common for ministers from governments of both sides of politics to be invited to important national events.

Senator KITCHING: We have certainly seen photographs of it in light of Sussan Ley's entitlements rorts. Was the minister there at the Melbourne Cup in her official capacity?

Senator Brandis: Ms Bishop was the foreign minister in 2016. If she attended the Melbourne Cup then she was the foreign minister at the time she attended. No doubt she was invited by those who organised the event because it is an important national event to which senior ministers are invited, just as Mr Shorten, who was the Leader of the Opposition in 2016, attended the same event. Did Mr Shorten attend in his capacity as Leader of the Opposition?

Senator KITCHING: It is also not—of course, it is in his electorate, isn't it.

Senator Brandis: Do we know where Mr Shorten travelled from to attend the 2016 Melbourne Cup? Was he in Melbourne that morning or was he elsewhere in Australia?

Senator KITCHING: Chair, aren't I asking the questions and Senator Brandis is the respondent?

Senator Brandis: I am responding.

Senator KITCHING: Thank you. If she was there, as you have said, in her capacity as foreign minister—

Senator Brandis: No, I did not say she was there in her capacity as foreign minister; I said that in 2016 she was the foreign minister and it is not uncommon—

Senator KITCHING: Has there been a reshuffle that we do not know about?

Senator Brandis: for senior ministers to be invited to and to attend important national events, of which the Melbourne Cup is one.

Senator KITCHING: I ask: was she conducting ministerial business there, Ms Adamson?

Ms Adamson : I have never attended the Melbourne Cup, so I cannot—

CHAIR: You are poorer for it, Ms Adamson, and the Melbourne Cup is the poorer for your absence.

Ms Adamson : Of course, it is the race that stops the nation. I have always watched it.

Senator KITCHING: Did she arrive or depart in Comcars?

Ms Adamson : I will have to take this series of questions on notice.

Senator KITCHING: Did you give advice about whether she should or should not attend? Would the department have given any advice of that nature?

Ms Adamson : I cannot imagine that we would have given advice on a matter like that.

Senator Brandis: Senator Kitching, can I please understand this: are you suggesting by your questions that there would be something unusual or inappropriate about the foreign minister attending the Melbourne Cup? Is that what you are suggesting?

Senator KITCHING: No—please do not categorise my questions.

Senator Brandis: I asked you and you said no. Thank you.

Senator KITCHING: No, I did not say—what I am saying is that I am asking about the foreign minister's travel and whether she is actually conducting ministerial business. If so, what advice or lack thereof is the department giving—

Senator Brandis: You have asked those questions and the questions have been taken on notice.

Senator KITCHING: I still have more to go, Senator Brandis. Did DFAT staff prepare any briefs in relation to the Melbourne Cup?

Ms Adamson : I would have to take that on notice, Senator, but I would say that the department briefs the foreign minister and it is important for a foreign minister to be fully briefed at all times about what is going on in the international domain. That process happens on a very regular basis. But I will certainly take your more specific question on notice.

Senator KITCHING: The reason I am asking about DFAT staff and briefing is because in 2016, I presume in her official capacity as foreign minister, Ms Bishop was asked to spruik the hashtag #fashiondiplomacy. Are there any other social events that the foreign minister has attended in her official capacity as foreign minister for the purpose of spruiking #fashiondiplomacy?

Ms Adamson : The Australian fashion industry is a very significant industry and is supported in many ways by the work that the department does, including at our overseas posts. The foreign minister has been a very strong supporter of that industry in all of the practical ways you would expect.

Senator KITCHING: Does that mean that DFAT does give advice on fashion events or staff them or resource them?

Ms Adamson : There are occasions where fashion events are very much part of the work of our overseas posts and part of the work that the department does to promote Australian exports. Again, I keep coming back to my experience in China. Yes, we did do some work then, not in relation to the foreign minister, but fashion and the fashion industry was certainly one of the Australian export sectors that we were very keen to support in a large emerging market.

Senator Brandis: It is integral to the foreign minister's role to promote Australia, Australian interests and Australian businesses. The fashion industry in Australia, I am advised, contributes $12 billion to the economy every year and employs 220,000 people. So, in my view, the fact that the foreign minister should promote this important Australian industry is both a good thing and a core function of being, as foreign minister, a promoter of Australia's businesses.

Senator KITCHING: That is very good to hear, Senator Brandis, because I was going to ask what benefit Minister Bishop has delivered to the Australian fashion industry.

Senator Brandis: Promoting the visibility of the industry overseas, I think you would agree with me, is a self-evidently good thing.

Senator KITCHING: Perhaps Ms Adamson could give some more concrete examples. For example, what is the significance of Ms Bishop—let us take a specific example—spruiking the hashtag #fashiondiplomacy on 1 November 2016 at the Melbourne Cup? What benefit has been derived in concrete terms from that?

Ms Adamson : In concrete terms, these things are often difficult to discern. But I regard having a foreign minister who is interested in and supportive of the fashion industry as a huge asset in the department's work.

CHAIR: Next to Oaks Day, I thought the Melbourne Cup would be the premiere event in the Melbourne calendar, wouldn't it, for fashion for women? The only other point I would also make is that she presents a far better picture than the previous two foreign ministers when it comes to supporting the Australian fashion industry.

Senator KITCHING: Now don't be sexist. Do we have an idea of the estimated net worth to the Australian economy of new deals resulting from #fashiondiplomacy?

Ms Adamson : I think that would be a very difficult figure to be able to be precise about, but I think I would certainly say that the promotion of the Australian fashion industry through a wide variety of means by our overseas posts in very close working partnership with the fashion industry itself and the various fashion weeks that are held around Australia, including Melbourne Fashion Week, and in close conjunction with organisations such as Australian Wool Innovation when it comes to Australian fibres, has all been very positive. I think we can point to a number of broad positive outcomes. I hope you would agree that putting a dollar figure on those is always going to be difficult. But, speaking from my own experience, I can see that there are significant benefits as we grow the profile of the Australian fashion industry globally.

Senator KITCHING: I have one more question and then I will ask some questions to be put on notice. By comparison, there is a Victorian company that has developed a textile and that textile is actually being used in German automotive manufacturing. It is a textile that enables the audio systems in cars to be very enhanced. I just notice, for example, that going out to a manufacturer in I think eastern Melbourne is nowhere as glamorous, perhaps, as spruiking #fashiondiplomacy on the day of the race that stops the nation. So I am wondering if Ms Bishop—

CHAIR: Isn't Portsea on the east side?

Senator KITCHING: Is the department able to let me know of textile manufacturers that are not perhaps fashion manufacturers and if the foreign minister has visited those people. That is one question. Secondly, how many DFAT staff were involved in the briefings on fashion, how often do they give those briefings to the foreign minister and do they travel with her or do they travel to where the foreign minister is attending events?

CHAIR: Thank you—they are taken on notice.

Senator FAWCETT: Secretary, you made a comment in your opening statement about the changing circumstances in global affairs. Clearly the new administration in the US is one of those. Can you talk about how DFAT went about preparing for whichever eventuality came out of the election in the United States?

Ms Adamson : You are absolutely right that Australia's engagement with the Trump administration and with both of the candidates in the lead-up to and final stages of the presidential election was cast very much with our interests in mind—our important national interests in the relationship with the United States. Of course, there is no more important bilateral relationship that we have. A team was established within the Americas division in the department working very closely with the embassy in Washington. Their work was developed during the campaign. I am not quite sure of the level of detail that you are looking for, but we have discussed previously, I think, on the last occasion we met the attendance by the embassy, including the ambassador, at the various conventions leading up to the election itself. But, of course, there was deeper work going on, in terms of the assessment of policies, in terms of meeting contacts of both candidates, in terms of likely transition teams and campaign teams. It was vitally important in this election, as, indeed, in many others around the world, that Australia be well positioned to work with an incoming administration.

Senator FAWCETT: Could you give us a few more examples of the kind of interaction during the transition period?

Ms Adamson : I can certainly give you more examples. I might ask my colleague Ms Heckscher to do so in a moment. But I visited Washington myself a couple of times before the election and was able to see the embassy at work engaging a wide range of stakeholders and hosting events, including for visitors, to enable us to have contact with and set out, essentially, Australia's interests and policy positions across a wide range of areas. This is the normal work of an embassy, but I think it is probably fair to say that in the case of the United States it needs to be done with greater intensity and with a wider range of people engaged. But, if you are interested in more detail about particular events and you can define those, we would be happy to do our best to answer.

Senator FAWCETT: I am aware, for example—I was in the United States four weeks ago dealing with some defence issues. The common theme there was that, because appointments had not yet been made, it was difficult for the administration. I am just interested to understand, in that transition period where there were no senior appointments, or to get an example or an understanding of how you engaged with the Trump transition team.

Ms Adamson : Each of the transition teams had various members appointed to those teams. Once the election result was clear then, obviously, our focus shifted from engaging intensively with both teams that had been stood up for this purpose and a wide range of other stakeholders in both parties to the Republican Party and the Trump administration. You are correct that there is in fact still a very large number, four weeks after you visited, of positions which have not been filled. We are obviously already engaged at the highest levels and the Foreign Minister was in Washington last week having conversations with her counterpart, Secretary Tillerson, Vice President Pence and National Security Adviser General McMaster. You are also correct that a number of positions have not yet been filled. Our embassy is very actively engaged in meeting and talking to a broad range of contacts on the assumption that at least some of those will be appointed to some of the positions that remain vacant.

Senator FAWCETT: You mentioned the foreign minister's visit there last week. Could you give the committee a little more detail on the nature of the meetings that occurred and any outcomes or indications of the direction of Australia's relationship with the US as a result?

Ms Adamson : Certainly. I think the foreign minister has indeed spoken publicly about her visit, which was a very successful visit. You will know that she had quickly established telephone contact with Secretary Tillerson. She spoke with him on 7 February. She visited Washington between 20 and 22 February. She had very productive meetings with Vice President Pence, Secretary of State Tillerson and the just-appointed National Security Adviser General McMaster. I think his appointment had only been announced a day or two beforehand. She was very pleased to be able to sit down and have I think quite long conversations with the three of them reaffirming the depth of our bilateral relationship and the strength of the alliance relationship that we have with the United States.

You would be aware also that, as you would expect, a number of ministers and officials are arranging visits and are engaged with their counterparts. I know that Senator Payne has already spoken to and, indeed, has had a long meeting with General Mattis. I think that, if you were to step back and look at where we are at this stage in early March, the new administration is settling in and contacts are being made across the board. There will be more of that to do.

I think it is also fair to say that the new administration is receptive to Australian views and ideas. They come to their roles in many cases with a great depth of experience, but they are looking to us as a valued partner for deeper discussions about policy going forward in some of the areas of the world where we cooperate most closely, including, obviously, in the Indo-Pacific region and the Middle East. We are deeply engaged in what is an important task. My sense, anyway, at this stage is that that process is unfolding in a reasonably orderly way and with some good conversations taking place, and there is still more to come.

Senator FAWCETT: You mentioned visits. I note that Secretary Kerry, when he came to Australia as secretary, mentioned that that was his first visit ever to Australia. Does the new Secretary Tillerson bring a different perspective on our region?

Ms Adamson : I think Secretary Tillerson, due to his particular background, has visited many countries in the world and, indeed, many in our region. I think he knows our part of the world quite well. Certainly, it was the foreign minister's very strong take-away from their meeting that he is actually very well informed, as indeed is General McMaster, the National Security Adviser, and similarly Vice President Pence.

Senator FAWCETT: You mentioned before that we have no more important relationship. Coming from a defence background, I clearly understand the defence implications of that. But, from DFAT's perspective, what are the priority areas that you are looking to work on with the new administration?

Ms Adamson : I think that, although you made the point about defence—and defence properly and in its technical aspects is very much a matter for Defence—the United States relationship is something that DFAT work on in the broad. It is fundamental to our strategic defence, trade and foreign policies. We are among the United States' most active allies globally in responding to shared strategic and economic challenges. We work closely across a very broad range of foreign policy, defence and security, economic, scientific and cultural pursuits. We have done so for many decades. But, of course, the United States is also Australia's most significant investment partner and our second largest trading partner, and we enjoy significant scientific, cultural and people-to-people ties. Of course, we share common values and I think we will see, going forward, all of those things coming to the fore even while some policies of the Trump Administration are still in the process of being formulated.

Senator FAWCETT: As that formulation occurs, are there any particular opportunities that you see that we should be investing effort in?

Ms Adamson : I think we have particular opportunities for regular contact at high levels with the United States administration, including through what is close to an annual Australia US ministerial consultation—AUSMIN. There are also opportunities for high-level meetings in the margins of summits and, from time to time, high-level visits in both directions. Given that Australia is really the only country that has fought alongside the United States in every war over the last century, obviously we are quite attentive to anniversaries where we have been engaged in conflict. As I am sure you are aware, there are a number of those coming up.

Senator WONG: I want to get to the engagement with the new administration, but can I first check whether, in the visit by Prime Minister Abe, we have been able to ascertain whether or not the foreign minister was in the meeting?

Ms Adamson : The foreign minister was not in the meeting. I did mention that, Senator.

Senator WONG: I am sorry—I did have to pop out to take a call.

Ms Adamson : No, that is fine. I am happy to reiterate.

Senator WONG: I think what I missed was this. The foreign minister advised that she was attending or heard through her office on 12 January. I think that was your evidence while I was out of the room.

Ms Adamson : I think that is what Mr Fletcher said, yes.

Senator WONG: I will not traverse it again if my colleague dealt with it. There was a series of meetings and there was a function or something. Is that right?

Ms Adamson : There was a reception and a dinner.

Senator WONG: A reception and a dinner, but not the meeting with the prime minister?

Ms Adamson : That is correct.

Senator WONG: While we are on Prime Minister Abe, we have seen, since the election of President Trump, Prime Minister Abe travelling extensively both to the US immediately after the election, I think, as well as subsequent to the inauguration and also within the region. He met with Mr Trump as President-elect and with the President after the inauguration. He has made over a week, I think, of which we were a part, a four-country trip—Australia, Philippines, Indonesia and Vietnam. He is obviously very active. The Prime Minister has not yet met with the President either as President-elect or as President, has he?

Ms Adamson : No, he has not.

Senator WONG: I cannot remember the diplomatic phrase Senator Fawcett used, but obviously it is a time where there has been a change of administration, and engagement with our partners in the region is obviously important. This was obviously, from what he said publicly, part of Prime Minister Abe's public rationale for the visit to the four countries I have described—that is, how to deal with a new administration and how to progress areas of joint interest et cetera. Is the Prime Minister planning a similar type of trip or a similar strategy?

Ms Adamson : Matters relating to the Prime Minister's travel plans are really a matter for the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet.

Senator WONG: This is a foreign policy strategy, isn't it?

Ms Adamson : I would expect that at some stage the Prime Minister would travel to the United States. As I have just said, the foreign minister was there last week. The Minister for Defence has met her counterpart. You will see over the coming weeks increasing contact by our ministers with their counterparts as they are confirmed both through meetings in third countries but also through travel to Washington. I think the point made by Senator Fawcett, though, obviously, is that there are still quite a number of senior positions still to be filled, including through confirmation processes. While this administration is still bedding down, my judgment would be that it would be better for us to wait a little longer before heading for Washington, as some leaders have felt obliged to do.

Senator WONG: Sure, though that may be a judgement.

Senator Brandis: Senator Wong, there is an expectation that there will be such a visit this year. But, for the reasons the secretary just outlined, it is important to schedule the visit for the most timely period of the year.

Senator WONG: That is reasonable but I am trying to understand the strategic decision that is being made by government. I appreciate that you may want to defer to the Prime Minister's office, but it is a foreign policy question ultimately. Given the importance of the relationship, which is self-evident and was discussed earlier with Senator Fawcett, you would have to say that the Prime Minister's and this government's approach to engaging in the region post the election of the new administration and this government's approach to engaging with the President-elect and President appears to be much more passive than Prime Minister Abe's.

Ms Adamson : I would say that Prime Minister Abe has been very active in his international diplomacy at a time when Diet sittings enabled him to be away from Japan. Japan has a particular set of issues and concerns about its immediate strategic environment. I think we can well understand why Prime Minister Abe regarded it as a very high priority to get to Washington very quickly. I would say that our interests—we have been actively engaged in the region. I would not agree with your characterisation of our diplomacy on this issue as being in any way passive. As you know—

Senator WONG: It was a comparative point.

Ms Adamson : I would reject the notion that Australia has been passive in its diplomacy. I think we have been very active in our diplomacy through a range of ministerial engagements, through high-level visits to Australia and through a wide range and increasing number of interactions with the new US administration. But I think it is reasonable, given the very comprehensive nature of our relationship with the United States, that ministers should first engage with their counterparts. I note that Senator Brandis will be meeting with the US Attorney General, Senator Sessions, the week after next. In our system it is important for ministers to engage, I would say, first. But I would also say that at all levels, including my own, we have been very actively engaged with counterparts in our region in what I think we all agree are rather uncertain times. That is certainly the case for both of my portfolio ministers and indeed for the Minister for International Development and the Pacific and for the Assistant Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment.

Senator WONG: That was a very long answer. Thank you very much for how comprehensive it was. You said that Prime Minister Abe has strategic concerns about his immediate region. I think that was your phrase. Do you think we do, or do not? Do you think Australia does or not?

Ms Adamson : I think if you look at the map it is easy to see why Prime Minister Abe would have felt the need to travel at a very early stage to Washington. Our government is thoughtful about the strategic challenges that face Australia, and that is one of the reasons why the government is currently engaged in the production of a white paper and in a very wide consultation process. But while this is going on we are actively engaged in developing our relationships with countries in our immediate neighbourhood and broader region.

Senator WONG: When did the Prime Minister last visit China?

Ms Adamson : The Prime Minister last visited China in April last year.

Senator WONG: When did Ms Bishop last visit China? I know she has met with Foreign Minister Wang Yi—

Ms Adamson : Yes, she has. Foreign Minister Wang Yi was here—

Senator WONG: I know that. Can we not be diverted by that? I just want to know when she last visited China.

Mr Fletcher : February 2016.

Senator WONG: And South-East Asia—Indonesia?

Ms Adamson : I travelled with the foreign minister to Indonesia in October 2016.

Senator WONG: Vietnam?

Ms Adamson : We will check that.

Senator FAWCETT: Secretary, I come back to the point on Prime Minister Abe and Japan. Am I correct in recalling that, during the election campaign, they were specifically singled out by President Trump? My interpretation was that Prime Minister Abe had a significant investment in making sure that that relationship remained.

Senator WONG: That is not right.

Senator FAWCETT: Am I also correct that the foreign minister has publicly stated that planning is under way for a meeting between Prime Minister Turnbull and President Trump?

Senator WONG: The comments were about 'allies' as well.

Ms Adamson : Senator Wong, the last time the foreign minister visited Vietnam was in February 2014. I spoke generally, Senator Fawcett, about Japan. But there were good reasons why, I think, Prime Minister Abe thought it was advisable to get to Washington very quickly after the election, including before the inauguration, and why he felt it was advisable in Japan's particular circumstances, including the particular characteristics of its bilateral relationship with the United States.

Senator WONG: And you do not believe that similar circumstances exist in relation to Australia?

Ms Adamson : We do not share the land borders that Japan does. We have a relationship with the United States—it is very difficult to compare the two.

Senator WONG: You were making a set of assertions, which you are entitled to do, about why Prime Minister Abe thought it necessary for him to take such an active role. Two meetings with President-elect and then President Trump plus meetings in the region to discuss, in part, from the public statements, engagement with the new administration—an approach that has not been mirrored by the Prime Minister or the foreign minister. As I understand it, your proposition is to tell us that a set of strategic and other considerations made it important for Prime Minister Abe. I am saying that therefore you do not believe that similar circumstances existed for Australia.

Senator Brandis: It is really not right to say that Ms Adamson is making a series of assertions. What Ms Adamson is doing is offering the committee her best professional judgement as one of Australia's most senior and experienced diplomats.

Senator WONG: There was no value judgement in 'assertion'. I am happy to rephrase 'assertion'. I am not making any pejorative comment by the use of that word.

Senator Brandis: That is fine.

Senator WONG: I was trying to be neutral.

Senator Brandis: That is fine. I accept that. But I want to emphasise the point—

Senator WONG: Yes, she is fantastic—we know. Can we move on with questions?

Senator Brandis: that we have had Ms Adamson's professional judgement about these matters. She makes the point—but, if I may say so, you do not need to be an accomplished diplomat to know—that each country's particular strategic circumstances are unique to itself.

Senator WONG: Ms Adamson, can you respond to my question?

Ms Adamson : I think it is worth looking also at Japan's normal approach to these things. I am advised that, when he was previously Prime Minister, Prime Minister Abe was the first foreign leader, or one of the very first, to visit President Obama also. It has been the Japanese approach to want to engage very quickly. In our own case our judgement has been that there has been no need for us to rush to Washington—that we will get there in good time, that we are engaged in a program of discussions at ministerial level which will build towards leader-level engagement in due course and when the time is right, but that there was no need for us to rush into that before the administration is fully up and running.

Senator WONG: Picking up on your phrase 'there is no need to rush to Washington'—I was in Washington on a PJCIS delegation the week of the well-reported phone call. I understand that the foreign minister was also in the US but that she was in Los Angeles, in part on leave and in part for G'Day USA. Is that right?

Ms Adamson : Yes. The foreign minister was in the United States.

Senator WONG: I do not have any particular questions about that aspect of it but I do want to know first if anyone from DFAT was travelling with her on that trip.

Ms Adamson : I can check that for you.

Senator WONG: You were not with her?

Ms Adamson : No. I do not normally travel with the foreign minister. But I do have a record of officials who have accompanied her on various visits. The minister was, on that visit—the part of it that related to G'Day USA—accompanied by an assistant secretary from the United States Branch in the department.

Senator WONG: What were the dates? Was it from the 26th to the 29th she was in Los Angeles?

Ms Adamson : They are the dates I have, yes.

Senator WONG: And some of that was on leave? I think she said that publicly.

Ms Adamson : Part of that was on leave.

Senator WONG: Which days were leave?

Ms Logan : She was on leave until 26 January for a week before that visit.

Senator WONG: So from the 26th to the 29th she was not on leave?

Ms Logan : No, she was officially there.

Senator WONG: I am only asking about the non-leave period. The 28th is the date—I will come back to the Prime Minister's phone call with the President which then obviously became a subject of media attention. I understand that at some point in that week, after that became public, the ambassador attended the White House and met with the Vice President and—was it the National Security Advisor at that point? I think this has been publicly reported.

Ms Adamson : It was before General McMaster of course—

Senator WONG: Sorry—the then. It was General Flynn. Have I got that right? Ambassador Hockey attended the White House during that week and met with the Vice President and the then National Security Advisor?

Ms Adamson : The ambassador attended a meeting in the White House. I will need to check exactly who was present.

Senator WONG: I am only going off my recollection, so I might have that wrong. I am interested, given that she was in the United States, as to the decision of the foreign minister not to come to Washington that week. Can you cast any light on that?

Ms Adamson : I think the judgement at that point was that the administration was still very much in a state of flux and that, while we were working towards phone calls, there would be no particular purpose to be served by travelling to Washington at a time when things were not yet settled. I know from my own conversations with the foreign minister that she was willing to do so if the department were able to establish that the time was suitable. In our judgement the time was not suitable.

Senator WONG: Can we get confirmation of whom the ambassador met? Is anyone able to give me that?

Ms Adamson : I think we can give you that if you give us a minute or two. Certainly, as I said, the ambassador attended a meeting in the White House and he was accompanied by the deputy head of mission.

Senator WONG: I just wonder why it was considered more appropriate for the ambassador to deal with it. I am not trying to make this more controversial but it obviously was a matter of substantial media attention—unprecedented in some ways—in terms of versions of what was said at the meeting. I do not propose to traverse those now but I do want to understand why the judgement was made. There might be a perfectly sensible reason. Why was the judgement made that it was more appropriate for the ambassador to attend in those circumstances rather than the foreign minister?

Ms Adamson : It does not strike me as in any way unusual that the ambassador or our heads of mission anywhere should be engaged in high-level discussions on matters that affect Australia's interests. That is absolutely what they are there for.

Senator WONG: No—that is not my question though. You have a Washington Post article that goes through what is allegedly said between the Prime Minister and the President on a matter that is of some sensitivity. I think there was a tweet, and after that we have a meeting with the ambassador and members of the administration yet to be confirmed. I want to understand why—there may be a perfectly reasonable explanation for it—rather than taking Australia's foreign minister to the other side of the country to deal with what was a sensitive diplomatic situation, it was considered more appropriate for Mr Hockey to deal with it.

Ms Adamson : As we have said, Minister Bishop attended events in Los Angeles between 26 and 29 January. The ambassador—I said he attended meetings with White House officials. I can confirm, as has been publicly reported, that he met Chief Strategist Steve Bannon and Chief of Staff Reince Priebus. The foreign minister had spoken—

Senator WONG: So it was not the National Secretary Advisor?

Ms Adamson : No.

Senator WONG: I am sorry—that is my error. I thought it was.

Ms Adamson : You recollected. I said I would check, and that is the information that I have. The foreign minister had spoken with Vice President Pence on 26 January. They had had a very good conversation, a long conversation, which touched on the breadth of Australia's interests in our relationship with the United States. At the point when Minister Bishop was in the United States on official business—26 to 29 January—that was before Secretary Tillerson was confirmed by the Senate and sworn in, so she had no counterpart who she could visit. In those circumstances it would be my professional judgement that it was entirely appropriate for the ambassador to conduct the meetings. As I said, that is what our ambassadors do.

Senator WONG: So there were two telephone calls to Vice President Pence?

Ms Adamson : That is correct.

Senator WONG: He is obviously not her counterpart.

Ms Adamson : He is not.

Senator WONG: Was he in the United States? Certainly Ms Bishop was in the United States when those calls were made. Was the Vice President?

Ms Adamson : Yes, the Vice President was.

Senator WONG: Was there any consideration of seeking a meeting with him?

Ms Adamson : We broadly have a remit to look for opportunities for high-level engagement but in this modern era phone calls take place far more frequently than face-to-face meetings. It was our judgement that that was going to best serve our interests. As I said to you, the foreign minister had made it very clear in advance of her travel that if there were opportunities to visit, if we thought it was a necessary or desirable thing for her to travel across to Washington, she would have been willing to do that.

Senator WONG: Did the foreign minister meet with any members of the Trump team between 26 and 29 January?

Ms Adamson : I think the answer is no but let us check, because 'the Trump team' is a very broad categorisation.

Senator WONG: I deliberately used that. I will explain why. I was not trying to be difficult.

Ms Adamson : I am sure.

Senator WONG: It was because there is a transition team and then those who are actually formally appointed. I was trying to capture both. I am just trying to get a sense—did you try to get an engagement between her and individuals who did or may have a role in the administration while she was in Los Angeles for G'Day USA?

Ms Adamson : Thought was given to whether there would have been scope for points of engagement. We are always alert to those opportunities. But in the end my understanding is—and I will ask my colleagues to correct me if that is not the case—that there were no such opportunities.

Senator WONG: Meaning there was not room in her program, or there was no one to—

Ms Adamson : There was no one who was there. Things were unfolding. I am sure you can understand that after eight years of one administration it is all change—it is an all-consuming thing. We wait until things have settled down.

Senator WONG: I asked Mr McKinnon on Monday when the Abe visit was confirmed—that the visit was going to occur. He told me it was only about 10 days before the visit. Mr Fletcher told me it was—Mr McKinnon said 'my recollection was only about 10 days ago' when I asked him when PM&C first became aware that Prime Minister Abe would visit. You became aware in December. I am a little confused about the timing.

Mr Fletcher : We like to keep ahead of PM&C on such things.

Senator WONG: I am sure you do—and not let them know?

Mr Fletcher : The fact of the visit was flagged in December. The timing of the visit was confirmed in January.

Senator WONG: Was it indicated that it would be at some point early in the new year?

Mr Fletcher : Yes.

Senator WONG: I want to now go to the first phone call.

CHAIR: Senator Wong—

Senator WONG: Chair, I am happy to pause if you want me to. This is another block, so—

CHAIR: If it is a good time to do so, yes.

Senator LUDLAM: My questions are about the government's bid for a spot on the Human Rights Council. How does the government rate its chances of securing a spot in October?

Dr Strahan : We are in, frankly, a fairly tough race. We are running for one of two seats against France and Spain in the Western European and Others Group group. France and Spain are both formidable competitors. They have very large diplomatic networks. So I would say at this point we have been running a rigorous professional campaign and we feel that we have a chance of winning and a chance of losing.

Senator LUDLAM: You make it sound like a sporting event.

Ms Adamson : We are naturally very focused on winning, and all of our efforts are being directed to that end.

Senator LUDLAM: That is good to hear. In lobbying for votes, have any other countries raised concerns about Australia's human rights record, particularly in relation to our treatment of refugees?

Dr Strahan : In our discussions about requesting support for our Human Rights Council candidacy that has not been the case.

Senator LUDLAM: So our diplomatic representatives who are tasked with lobbying have not reported any instances of concerns raised about our refugee policy. Do you want to take that on notice and check the record?

Dr Strahan : No. In more general discussions, yes, that has happened. In the precise discussions about our candidacy and request for support, I am not aware of any country directly raising those concerns. But I can check.

Senator LUDLAM: Yes, maybe. It would be fascinating if nobody had sought to raise it. I understand the distinction you mean between that and the general conversations that diplomats are engaged in all the time. If you are checking the record—has anybody had concerns raised with them about our weak opposition to human rights abuses in places like Sri Lanka, West Papua or elsewhere?

Dr Strahan : Our approach to Sri Lanka has not been weak. We have maintained a very consistent and strong position on Sri Lanka. In the direct discussions about our human rights candidacy, countries have not raised that particular issue with us as far as I am aware.

Senator LUDLAM: In terms of our strong record on human rights, are we still lending military equipment and white vans to the police agency that is alleged to have committed really horrific human rights abuses, or has that practice stopped?

Ms Klugman : Senator, could you repeat the question for me?

Senator LUDLAM: In maybe the estimates before last—last May or thereabouts, or it might have been before that—I raised some concerns about Australian support and paramilitary equipment vehicles: white vans, naval patrol boats. What I was particularly interested in was that Australia appeared to be supporting what I think is called the CID. Does that ring a bell?

Ms Klugman : The CID is the criminal investigation division. It is part of the Sri Lanka police.

Senator LUDLAM: So you would no doubt be aware of open-source reporting that the CID is alleged to have engaged in disappearances, torture, extra-judicial killing and all manner of other really horrific human rights abuses. These are allegations but no doubt you are aware of them.

Ms Klugman : Yes. As you are aware, those are allegations that go back some time.

Senator LUDLAM: What have you done to validate them? And are we still supplying that unit with equipment, training and so on?

Ms Klugman : My understanding is that there is no current supply of such equipment to any units, including the CID of the Sri Lankan police. But that would be a matter for the Australian Federal Police to respond to in detail. On our collaboration more broadly with the Sri Lankan government and Sri Lankan security services and their human rights practices, we do have a strong—as Dr Strahan said, an ongoing conversation and engagement with the Sri Lankan government on human rights practices. We make very clear in very direct ways our support for international standards and for improvements specifically in Sri Lanka. You would be aware, I think, that there was a very significant change of government in Sri Lanka first at the beginning of 2015 with the election of a new president and then subsequently with a new government established later that year. That government has made clear its commitment to improving human rights practices across the board and pursuing deeper reconciliation in a post-war context in Sri Lanka.

Senator LUDLAM: Thank you for your evidence, Ms Klugman. Mr Strahan, coming back to our HRC bid, have any countries made any comments, particularly in Latin America, the Caribbean or African countries, regarding our aid cuts following our successful Security Council bid in late 2012? Obviously that was a bid that was put together by the previous government. But I suspect there is a certain amount of cynicism in that we ramped our aid budget up, got the votes we needed and then bailed on them a couple of years later. Has that particular issue come to light so far in the lobbying that is going on?

Dr Strahan : Yes, it has been a topic of conversation. But I can say that for instance in Africa we have in fact recently funded a number of projects, including with the African Union Commission.

Senator LUDLAM: So we are starting it up again now we need the votes again?

Dr Strahan : No. We have had a continuing program in Africa which had to be wound back when the cuts were made to the aid program. Naturally you would expect that, in the conversations we have with countries, they would express their opinions about this topic. But I cannot say that it has soured these conversations about our request for support.

Mr McDonald : On that, Senator, the change of focus of the program is very clearly part of the government's policy to focus on the Indo-Pacific region of the program. That is where Australia is seen as the lead. In terms of our focus in Africa we still have a very strong NGO program that operates there, and scholarships and volunteers as well. We also have a number of global programs that provide humanitarian support in Africa and provide support elsewhere, including in the Middle East and the Caribbean. So, yes, the focus of the program has changed and our global humanitarian efforts and our focus in Africa have been narrowed but we are still providing support in that region.

Senator LUDLAM: I recognise it is not the fault of any of the officers at this table that the aid budget was cut, and I get that it had to come from somewhere. Maybe I should be blunt and ask what I am thinking. Do we target our aid contributions to countries when we are seeking their votes for places on councils like the HRC or, in the past, the Security Council? In this particular instance do we target our aid budget to countries in a quid pro quo type manner? Is there anything behind the scenes that would indicate that we do that?

Mr McDonald : Our approach to the allocation of the aid budget is consistent with the government's policy.

Senator LUDLAM: The government's policy is to seek a bid on the HRC.

Mr McDonald : No—aid policy. The aid policy is very clear. The objective of the program is around economic growth and poverty reduction, with a focus on the Indo-Pacific region. So that is how we determine each year—and that budget allocation is determined by the foreign minister each year. If you look at our allocation this year you will see it is quite similar to other years in terms of that focus. So, no, from my point of view there is no quid pro quo. There are certainly exchanges of support for other countries in terms of other things they may wish to stand for, but the aid program is not used in that way now.

Senator LUDLAM: It is not used as a bargaining chip as such?

Mr McDonald : No.

Senator LUDLAM: Senator Brandis, you might want to take this. I guess this is straying into policy. Is the government planning on reconsidering its aid budget? We heard this morning—I think in response to questions by Senator Wong—that our aid budget is projected to decrease even further—I think to 0.21 per cent of GNI by financial year 2019-20. Is there any consideration of reconsidering that in the light of what seems like an imminent decision by the Trump administration to significantly cut its aid program?

Senator Brandis: In December MYEFO we announced some changes to the aid budget: $100 million over five years from 2016-17 was allocated to establish a regional health security partnership fund to tackle emerging health security risks in the Indo-Pacific region; $5.4 million over five years from 2016-17 was—

Senator LUDLAM: Senator Brandis, you might have misunderstood. I can check MYEFO for that. I recognise that those commitments were made. I am talking about the overall allocation into the forward estimates.

Senator Brandis: All I can tell you is I am advised that overseas development assistance is forecast to increase in 2017-18 in line with the Consumer Price Index.

Senator WONG: Not as a proportion of GNI.

Senator Brandis: May I finish, please, without being interrupted? It was announced at MYEFO in 2014-15. As you would expect, Senator, the final figure will be determined as part of the 2017-18 budget process. I am sure you would not be expecting me in March to be announcing decisions that will be announced in the budget.

Senator WONG: It is not disputed, Senator Brandis, that as a proportion of GNI the aid budget declines over the forward estimates.

Senator Brandis: I am just trying to respond to Senator Ludlam's question as I understood it.

Senator WONG: The government does not dispute that. That is what your figures say.

Senator LUDLAM: I have not heard any time in the past of benchmarking our global aid budget against CPI. That did catch me a bit unawares. The reason I am asking is that since MYEFO came out the incoming administration has made some fairly severe proposals around cuts to aid—

Senator Brandis: You are talking about the Trump administration?

Senator LUDLAM: Yes, I am, sorry—not here domestically. I am wondering whether that may spark any kind of response from Australia. Particularly what I am interested in is whether—

Senator Brandis: I think it is wrong to think that we benchmark or make decisions about our overseas development assistance budget by reference to what other countries do.

Senator LUDLAM: In my experience that happens all the time. It happened in Myanmar. We work collaboratively with other countries all over the world.

Senator Brandis: I think you are talking about the global budget, aren't you?

Senator LUDLAM: Yes, I am. Let me put a specific question to you. I understand the point that you are making. Will Australia make any new pledges of financial support for sexual and reproductive health to organisations impacted by the global gag rule, to help fill that gap? This does not go to the overall quantum of aid, but here is a program which is immensely valuable, which Australia has been a part of supporting before. After President Trump cancelled US funding to these incredibly valuable support services for women, for example the Dutch government stepped up and said, 'We will help fill that gap'. Is that something the Australian Government could consider doing?

Senator Brandis: As I said, we do not make our decisions by reference to the decisions of other countries. I am not aware of what the Dutch government may have done.

Mr McDonald : The program you mentioned has been in place since 2007. What was announced recently was the third phase of that program, which provides another $9.5 million over the next three years, with a focus on our region—which goes to what I talked about earlier in terms of the focus of the program. In terms of the decision making around that, we entered into those arrangements in December of this year and therefore that program is a continuing program. Also in relation to the proposed or speculated aid reductions, there is no detail on that coming out of the administration at this point. There is a Mexico agreement that has been signed by the President, but beyond that the extent of that is not yet known.

Senator LUDLAM: I will put this one on notice. Could you pass back to your minister whether Australia will consider stepping up to fill the gap as the Dutch government has done if the US administration follows through on its commitment to zero out its contribution? I do not expect an answer right here at the table.

Senator Brandis: Could you define the particular program that you are concerned about?

Senator LUDLAM: In the US it is spoken of as the global gag rule—that anybody who is providing abortion services or family planning services to women they will no longer fund. I will provide some information on what the Dutch government's undertaking was, if that would be helpful.

Senator Brandis: So you want to know whether, in the event that the Trump administration were to reduce assistance—

Senator LUDLAM: They have already announced that they are zeroing out of assistance.

Senator Brandis: in relation to reproductive health in those countries where Australia provides aid for similar programs, Australia's contribution would increase correspondingly?

Senator LUDLAM: That is a reasonable summary.

Senator WONG: Senator Moore and I were going to deal with the global gag this afternoon in the normal process. She may have questions now that she may want to add to that.

Senator MOORE: We will come back later.

Senator WONG: Did the first phone call between the Prime Minister and then President-elect Trump occur on 10 November last year?

Ms Adamson : That is correct.

Senator WONG: Who made the initial request?

Ms Adamson : Our embassies overseas are typically involved in arranging phone calls between leaders.

Senator WONG: Was the embassy on this occasion?

Ms Adamson : Yes, they were involved in arranging the call. That is part of their ordinary work.

Senator WONG: I am not asking what the system is. I am asking specific questions about this call. Who from DFAT was involved in arranging this call?

Ms Adamson : DFAT had no role in facilitating the call. I know this is a subject that has already been discussed during PM&C's estimates.

Senator WONG: Yes but they referred me to you.

Ms Adamson : DFAT in Canberra had no role in facilitating the call.

Senator WONG: Can we be careful with this? When you say DFAT I am assuming you mean everybody. Are you saying DFAT Canberra when you say DFAT?

Ms Adamson : No. I am saying that on this occasion DFAT in Canberra had no role in facilitating the call but that I understand that the embassy in Washington—we tend to think of our embassies as fulfilling whole-of-government functions, as you know—was involved in the normal way in setting up a call. But the precise details of who and when—

Senator WONG: It was involved in no way?

Ms Adamson : It was involved in setting up the call, as it normally would be. It is a standard part of the process, although I should say it is becoming increasingly common for leaders to ring each other on their mobile phones. So what was absolutely clear in the past is now less clear.

Senator WONG: So the embassy in Washington had a role. It was involved in setting up the call. What was the nature of its role?

Ms Adamson : Establishing a time—governments across the world have different protocols in place for who initiates, for testing arrangements and all of those sorts of things. So there are a range of practical details around that. But the call did take place on the date that you have mentioned.

Senator WONG: Who called whom?

Ms Adamson : As I say, the protocols around these things vary from one country to another. In the case of the United States my experience is that they will initiate the phone call, having tested it beforehand. But let me check whether that protocol—obviously operating under the previous administration—also operated in exactly the same way at this stage.

Senator WONG: Would you—including whether it was a secure line and those sorts of things?

Ms Adamson : We will not comment on elements of security but we can check.

Senator WONG: I will not ask that question then. Rather than being at the level of protocol, I actually want to know what happened. Do you want the opportunity to ascertain that over lunch? I can ask about something else and come back to it.

Ms Adamson : We do not have those sorts of details. I would not normally expect to have who called whom when. These things are arranged to take place at a particular time. There is a to-ing and fro-ing process over who will initiate, what the phone number is, what line it takes place on, when it is tested—

Senator WONG: Who got the phone number? How was the phone number obtained?

Ms Adamson : I cannot answer that question. I would not expect to be able to. It is the job of our overseas missions to arrange these calls through whatever means works locally.

Senator WONG: Ms Adamson, please—this has been in the paper. I asked questions about it on Monday. You are a very good officer and this is a very good department. I am sure people know. It is not like you would not have worked it out. Did Greg Norman give Joe Hockey the mobile number to call the President?

Ms Adamson : I cannot help you with the answer to that question. What I know is—

Senator WONG: Then I am asking you to find out. He is an ambassador for whom this portfolio is responsible. It is a legitimate question whether the public reporting and what was told to me in estimates on Monday can be confirmed here.

Ms Adamson : How our posts get phone numbers to arrange calls—these things are arranged through a normal process involving—

Senator WONG: It did not appear to be arranged through a normal process.

Ms Adamson : Perfectly honestly, having been at posts where we have needed to arrange phone calls between leaders—there is a wide range of things you draw on. A call is—

Senator WONG: Are you refusing to get this information for me?

Ms Adamson : I am saying I do not have it available.

Senator WONG: Can you get this information for me?

Ms Adamson : I can check and see if it is available but what I am saying is that what was done was very much normal practice in terms of an embassy setting up a phone call at a particular time.

Senator WONG: If you could get that information I would appreciate it.

Ms Adamson : I will do the best I can.

Senator WONG: I would have thought it was pretty obvious I was going to ask this.

Ms Adamson : I would not normally take as close an interest in who did what—

Senator WONG: No but it is the first phone call between the Prime Minister and the newly elected President. It is not a small issue. I am happy to move on if you could—

Ms Adamson : I will do the best I can but I cannot guarantee I will be able to get the level of detail.

Senator WONG: I just want to know whether the reports are true. If you cannot get anything—it has been in the public arena. The Prime Minister may even have responded to this. Did we get the mobile phone number from Mr Norman? If so, how did that occur? I will move on to the next thing. Was anyone from DFAT present with the Prime Minister or on the line when the call was made?

Ms Adamson : No, and that would not normally be the case either.

Senator WONG: Were any public servants or employees present for the call?

Ms Adamson : That is really a question for the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet and the Prime Minister's office.

Senator WONG: Are you aware as to whether any public servants or employees were present for the call?

Ms Adamson : I did not have that visibility and I would not normally expect to.

Senator WONG: Did you obtain any information, as the secretary, about what occurred during the call? Were you briefed by anyone?

Ms Adamson : I was advised that the call had taken place. I received a very general-level read-out, which I think matched very closely what the Prime Minister then said publicly—that the call had taken place, that it had emphasised the deep nature of the relationship between our two countries—

Senator WONG: Who advised you and who provided you with the general read-out?

Ms Adamson : I was contacted in the way I normally would be: by the Prime Minister's office after the call had taken place to confirm that it had happened. That would be their practice rather than necessarily dealing directly with the post in Washington.

Senator WONG: And the read-out?

Ms Adamson : It was a very brief read-out which matched—

Senator WONG: Was the read-out by email?

Ms Adamson : No.

Senator WONG: So the read-out was by telephone call only?

Ms Adamson : It was by telephone. I think, from memory, it was late on Sunday morning. I had known that the call was planned to take place. It was really a very brief conversation confirming that the call had in fact taken place.

Senator WONG: Is there any record of that read-out?

Ms Adamson : I have not seen a record.

Senator WONG: In relation to Greg Norman's involvement, which I think PM&C confirmed—and I am sure you would have read that evidence—

Ms Adamson : I cannot comment on that. I have no direct knowledge of it. It is really a matter for Prime Minister and Cabinet.

Senator WONG: I know you do not want to answer anything about this but I had not actually asked a question. I am interested as to whether there is any precedent, from your perspective, of an individual such as Mr Norman providing a leader's mobile to another leader.

Ms Adamson : I would simply say that we expect a post to be agile and innovative in how they seek to arrange phone calls. Sometimes that is not necessary but, as I am sure you will understand and know from your own experience, when calls are requested it is important that they be arranged. And early on in an administration a variety of sources could be used. As I say, I have no direct knowledge of how that worked in this case. But I would expect any of our overseas embassies asked to arrange a phone call between the Prime Minister or indeed our ministers and their counterparts would be able to do so by whatever means necessary.

Senator WONG: Mr Norman has no official role position in terms of DFAT, does he?

Ms Adamson : Mr Norman is not an employee of the department.

Senator WONG: No special envoy—there seem to be a lot of them lately. I have quite a few questions also about the call of the 29th but it might be better for me not to start them now. There is also a question on notice I am going to go to which it might be useful for you to familiarise yourself with over the break, Ms Adamson. It is a chamber question from Senator Bilyk—No. 324.

Senator KITCHING: The other evening with DPMC, as Senator Wong has indicated, there was a series of questions about Prime Minister Abe's visit. Mr McKinnon assured me that in fact DFAT and DPMC always had a collaborative approach. So I am a bit surprised that DFAT knew from December that Prime Minister Abe was going to visit and PM&C had 10 days or so to set up the visit. Is it remarkable that the foreign minister was not confirmed until two days out?

Ms Adamson : No, it is not.

Senator KITCHING: I will put another proposition to you. A journalist contacted Minister Bishop's office about the Portsea Polo, and again I draw your attention to this. I will ask Senator Brandis to confirm that there is a photograph of his colleague the foreign minister on the invitation to the Portsea Polo.

Senator Brandis: What is the question?

Senator KITCHING: Could you confirm that there is a photograph in the top left-hand corner of Minister Bishop on the invitation to the January 2017 Portsea Polo?

Senator Brandis: There is certainly a photograph of Ms Bishop on the piece of paper you have given me. The document you have described as an invitation is a statement of welcome, I think. It refers to and seems to be issued by a Polo Club Point Nepean and refers to the Alfa Romeo Portsea Polo.

Senator KITCHING: Yes. But you will confirm that that is Minister Bishop photographed there?

Senator Brandis: There is a photograph of Minister Bishop on this document.

Senator KITCHING: Thank you. I will put another proposition to you, Ms Adamson. A journalist contacted Ms Bishop's office about the Portsea Polo on 8 or 9 January. Minister Bishop's office then hurriedly made arrangements to be busy with Prime Minister Abe's visit, so she did not attend the 2017 Portsea Polo.

CHAIR: You would know, Senator Kitching, that the secretary would not have to respond to some speculation that has been cooked up between you and a journalist. The secretary can deal with matters that she knows to be facts—

Senator KITCHING: It was not cooked up at all—

CHAIR: and/or she—

Senator KITCHING: and I actually—

CHAIR: Please do not speak over me. And/or she can take on notice and respond to anything about which she knows nothing.

Senator KITCHING: Then if she could take it on notice it would be good. Ms Adamson, are you sure DFAT did not set up any media at the Portsea Polo event or at the Melbourne Cup? Did DFAT officers set up media interviews with Ms Bishop at either of those events?

Ms Adamson : I have no knowledge whatsoever of any of that. But let me be thorough and check with colleagues and get back to you.

Senator KITCHING: Thank you.

Senator MOORE: Chair, on a point of order, just for the record—Senator Kitching is pursuing a line of questioning, and I do not think it is appropriate to put on record an allegation of cooking something up when pursuing a line of questioning in this place.

CHAIR: Thank you, Senator Moore. I have noted your point.

Senator Brandis: The Heydon royal commission discovered that Senator Kitching cooked up 11 matters that were referred to the Commonwealth DPP—11 conclusions of crime.

Senator KITCHING: Someone just reminded me, Senator Brandis, that you were a union leader at—

Senator LUDLAM: Chair, on a point of order—time is precious. We have some of the highest paid bureaucrats in the country taking a day off their regular work to be here. Can we just get back to estimates, please?

Senator Brandis: That is true, Senator Ludlam, which is why I wonder why these extremely trivial questions are being pursued when there are important matters to be asked.

Senator LUDLAM: I was not picking on you, Senator Brandis.

Senator KITCHING: Chair, I have finished. I said I had some clarifying matters. Ms Adamson is going to go away and find out some further details.

CHAIR: Correct. She has undertaken to do that.

Ms Adamson : Chair, I have checked with my colleague in charge of our Parliamentary and Media Branch. We have not assisted with arranging media interviews in the way that Senator Kitching has described.

Senator KITCHING: That raises a question. The hashtag #fashiondiplomacy was something that the department was involved in at the Melbourne—

Ms Adamson : The hashtag #fashiondiplomacy in support of Australia's fashion is not arranging media interviews.

Senator KITCHING: No, but that was a social media campaign that featured the foreign minister?

Mr Tranter : That was a campaign to promote the Australian fashion industry. We promote many parts of Australia's creative industries—design, architecture, gaming and fashion. That was one way we promoted that particular sector.

Senator KITCHING: Who accompanied Ms Bishop to the Melbourne Cup when she was there doing that campaign?

Mr Tranter : There were no departmental officers that I am aware of for that particular event. The hashtag that you refer to has been used by the department, by ministers and by our embassies to promote fashion more generally. That particular event was not something that the department provided support for.

Senator KITCHING: But you would be able to go away and check? I think you started that statement with 'I'm not sure but'.

Ms Adamson : I think we are sure in relation to #fashiondiplomacy.

Senator Brandis: Just to be clear, that question is not being taken on notice, because it has been answered.

Senator FAWCETT: Can I clarify a couple of questions we asked previously? I asked whether Japan had been singled out at all during the election campaign. You very diplomatically made some comments to that effect. Can I clarify that both Japan and South Korea were named as particular nations where perhaps America's guarantees of defence and security arrangements may not continue unless there was increased payment or contribution to the effort, so they had a significant interest in assuring that relationship?

Ms Adamson : A lot of things were obviously said in the US election campaign, as are said in a wide variety of election campaigns, but that essential point is correct. While campaigning, when he was President-elect and since, a continuing theme of President Trump's has been that alliance partners need to pull their weight. It was something that he mentioned in his speech to Congress yesterday. But I think he also acknowledged that in fact they were doing this. I think what we are starting to see is some greater recognition and acknowledgment—of a kind that you would expect as a new administration finds its feet—of the contributions that alliance partners are making. That would, I expect—although I certainly cannot speak for the government of Japan—have been one of the factors and one of the subjects discussed by Prime Minister Abe.

Senator FAWCETT: I certainly do not expect you to speak for the government of Japan. I am just seeking to put the counterbalancing argument about why there was a different priority. I do not believe—and I am happy to be corrected—that there was any such mention of the ANZUS alliance during the election campaign. In fact the opposite—I think it has always been recognised as an alliance where Australia has pulled its weight.

Ms Adamson : That is correct.

Senator FAWCETT: Can you confirm—in terms of the appointments that the foreign minister made during her trip to the States—that Vice President Pence by the time of the inauguration had already been confirmed in his role?

Ms Adamson : Vice President Pence is sworn in, so he does not need to be confirmed. He was sworn in.

Senator FAWCETT: But the Americans have, as I understand it, quite strict rules around the fact that officials who are to be appointed do not have contact with other nations until they are confirmed. I understand that Mr Tillerson—Secretary Tillerson now—was refusing to take calls from other nations because of those rules, and he was not in fact confirmed until very late in January or in early February.

Ms Adamson : As I said in response to Senator Wong—I do not have the date in front of me now but I think I said 1 or 2 February. You are absolutely correct that there are very strict rules and protocols around contact with incoming members of the administration—those, at least, who are required to go through confirmation hearings before they are confirmed and sworn in. It has been our experience with this administration that they have been every bit as punctilious about those things as their predecessors have been. I can confirm that, as I said, Tillerson was confirmed by the Senate and sworn in on 1 February. That was indeed after Minister Bishop had been in the US. So when I said the department was looking for opportunities—we were alert to those opportunities but, as you correctly point out, they did not arise in Secretary of State Tillerson's case because he had not been sworn in.

Senator FAWCETT: So in summary both the US and Australia were following well-established and respected procedures and protocol in terms of the nature of contacts and the urgency and level of contacts during that transition period?

Ms Adamson : That is the case. In fact it continues to be the case, as a number of secretaries are yet to be sworn in and a number of other positions—a very large number, in fact—are still to go through the confirmation process. So there will be an element of that as this transition continues. It will take some time yet.

CHAIR: That is a good spot to stop for lunch.

Proceedings suspended from 12:29 to 13:29

CHAIR: Thank you, Secretary. Thank you, colleagues and broadcasting, Hansard, in continuation. Senator Reynolds.

Senator REYNOLDS: Thank you very much. Good afternoon. I have a couple of issues here that I would like to run through quickly with you. I am very happy, Secretary, for some of them to be taken on notice. The first one relates to cultural diplomacy and its increasing role in our foreign affairs policy. Are you aware of a Catalyst funding for the Western Australian Ballet who did a very successful exchange and tour in Indonesia with the Indonesian Ballet Company? First of all, are you aware of the visit at all?

Ms Adamson : I will ask Mr Tranter to come to the table. You are absolutely right that our cultural diplomacy is important, that we do work very closely with Australia's premier arts companies and that there is quite a lot going on, but in terms of the precise details let me ask Mr Tranter to help you.

Mr Tranter : We are aware of that program and also the Catalyst proposal that you referenced.

Senator REYNOLDS: The feedback that I have had from contacts in Indonesia and just having a look at the front page of the Jakarta Post and things, it just seemed to be an extraordinarily successful program. I wonder if you could perhaps take on notice anything more that you have on the diplomatic benefits or any outcomes of that particular visit because it seems to me that in using our wonderful arts companies across the spectrum that there are a lot of opportunities there, both economically and also culturally.

Ms Adamson : Yes. If I can just say you are absolutely right. The precise benefits are difficult to quantify but what they do go to is the strength of Australia's cultural companies and the diversity of our art forms. They often speak to a multicultural society and inevitably, in my experience, they are very warmly welcomed whenever these companies travel for whatever purpose. We would be happy to provide you with more details along the lines of your question.

Senator REYNOLDS: Thank you. I was fortunate enough to represent the government at Mining Indaba recently in Africa. I just want to provide some feedback and ask a couple of questions, but I have got to say that the DFAT staff there are outstanding. I was there for five days and I got to meet them all and watch them engage with the 200-odd Australian companies. It was a bit ironic going there to meet half of west Perth. Just observing them, in terms of their engagement with business, it was highly professional in supporting their activities with the African governments. I was bowled over, actually, by what they did. Mr Innes-Brown was there as well. I am just finalising my report back to government on it but there is clearly a lot more happening diplomatically and business-wise in Africa, even from Western Australia that I was aware of, so I just want to congratulate your team and also the Austrade team. It was the biggest one there. What is the out-take for the department in terms of your African engagement and, in particular, with Australian businesses in Africa?

Ms Adamson : Could I just thank you very much for the thanks. We will ensure that it is passed to colleagues. I will ask Mr Innes-Brown to reply in detail to your question.

Mr Innes-Brown : Thank you for those remarks. We very much appreciated your engagement. I know it means a lot to business to have political representation there and, as you said, Mining Indaba is the biggest mining conference in Africa. We very much appreciated your assistance and support. It made it clear to the large number of African mining ministers there that we are serious about supporting our companies and they have full support back here.

As you said, it is a big event. We had quite a large presence there again. I think it reflects the fact that we have major economic interests in Africa. We have about $30 billion investment in mining. We have about 175 Australian companies that are doing projects that range from exploration through to production. They are doing about 400 projects in 35 different countries. It is also not a well known fact that there are estimates that about 40 per cent of Australian mining projects overseas are in Africa, and Africa is also the biggest market for our mining equipment, technology and services companies outside of Australia.

There are two big events on the calendar. One is Mining Indaba and there is also Africa Down Under, which is usually held in Perth in September every year. That has been a key vehicle for our engagement with African countries on mining. Also, of course, all our HOMs, heads of mission, are active throughout the year but those are unique opportunities in which to talk to African companies and also political leaders about what we have to offer and that will remain a continuing thrust of our commercial engagement.

Besides the strictly commercial engagement, extractives and increasing the capabilities of African countries in the extractives area is also a key thrust of our aid program. It is one of the three focus areas of our scholarships program. Since 2011 we have given about 580 short course and masters scholarships to Africans to conduct studies and training on extractives related areas.

Also, through the former Australia-Africa Partnership Fund, we have brought out about 500-plus officials for study tours over the last few years. They have looked at our regulations and the skills that we have to offer and what our processes are here, which has also been very important. More broadly, we were the first country to provide funding for the African Minerals Development Centre, which is providing technical assistance to African countries.

It will remain the focus of our activity. As you said, it was a very successful event in Cape Town recently. The events that Austrade organised in the Australia Lounge had over 400 people that participated in those events and provided an important platform for networking between our companies and also potential partners across Africa.

Senator REYNOLDS: Thank you. In relation to the white paper, is Africa and our engagement with Africa something that might have a bigger focus in the white paper development?

Ms Adamson : The white paper team is looking across the whole globe at how our interests are engaged internationally. They are also looking, obviously, at demographic trends, economic data and projections on all sorts of things. It is clear that Africa will, of course, have a role to play. It has a very young population and growth prospects and, while our attention will inevitably be focused more towards our immediate region—the South Pacific as well as the Indo-Pacific—we are very mindful of the opportunities to which you refer.

Senator REYNOLDS: Chair, can I put one on notice now?

CHAIR: On notice, yes.

Senator REYNOLDS: I would like to get a follow-up to previous questions I have asked about the possibility of a SmartVolunteer presence on the DFAT website. If you could take that on notice.

Mr McDonald : Just on that, rather than take it on notice, we can say that we have done that link, as we talked about at the last estimates. It is between Smartraveller and the Volunteers webpage. You can go and have a look and you will see that we followed through on that commitment that we talked about at the last hearing.

Senator REYNOLDS: That is great news.

Ms Adamson : We can add that we also recently held an event for volunteers, a large number of them who have served in that capacity, because we want to keep in touch with them. We regard them as important alumni, if you like, and having a voice that we want to make sure we continue to engage.

Senator REYNOLDS: Thank you.

CHAIR: Senator Wong.

Senator WONG: Just to quickly tidy up a couple of things we were dealing with before lunch, are we able to get any more detail about the first phone call and how the details of that, the phone number et cetera, were all arranged?

Ms Adamson : What I can say, having checked over the break, is at that stage, or when the now President Trump was not even formally officially president-elect, our ambassador was engaged in making this phone call happen. He was able to get a number and provide it to the Prime Minister. It was great news that our Prime Minister was one of the first to congratulate President Trump, and that reflects excellent work all around.

Senator WONG: Was Mr Greg Norman the person who gave him the number?

Ms Adamson : I do not know who gave the ambassador the number. I know from the ambassador that he got the number, that he gave it to the Prime Minister and the call happened. Australia was very early and it was great news.

Senator WONG: You keep avoiding it. I am not interested. You are continuing to avoid something which you and I both know has been reported and confirmed in another estimates. On notice could you please advise who gave Ambassador Hockey the number? Just to confirm also, was DFAT Canberra aware of the fact that the phone call was going to happen before it happened?

Ms Adamson : DFAT Canberra?

Senator WONG: Yes.

Ms Adamson : Our post in Washington was simply very mindful of the fact that the election outcome at least was clear, even if the formalities had not been completed, and that we would be looking for an early engagement. That had been the case even before the election. So did we know precisely? Probably not. Did we know that a call was in prospect and could happen at any minute? Absolutely, yes.

Senator WONG: Right at the end I think you answered my question. I sort of vagued out. What was the last sentence?

Ms Adamson : I said we did not know precisely in advance but we knew that a call could happen at any minute because—

Senator WONG: It could happen?

Ms Adamson : Yes.

Senator WONG: Were you aware that the Prime Minister was going to call the president?

Ms Adamson : I knew that the Prime Minister was trying to call the president and that the ambassador was on the case.

Senator WONG: Can I go to the phone call which occurred on 29 January, Australia time?

Ms Adamson : Yes. That was the Sunday?

Senator WONG: Yes, Sunday the 29th. Were you or anyone from DFAT aware that the call was going to occur prior to the call occurring?

Ms Adamson : Yes, I think we were.

Senator WONG: How did you become aware?

Ms Adamson : By this stage it was settled, and when I say 'settled', I mean the president had been sworn in. The processes were kicking in at the Washington end to arrange calls with a whole range of leaders and we were preparing for a call. At precisely what point it became known, I am not absolutely sure, but I do know that we were expecting a call to take place over the weekend.

Senator WONG: I just want to know when, so you could take on notice DFAT's involvement; that is, when DFAT was advised and how they became aware that the call was going to take place. I would like a bit of a chronology on that, on notice.

Ms Adamson : I can take that on notice.

Senator WONG: Do you know who initiated it? Who made the request?

Ms Adamson : The embassy put in a request for a call. All embassies in Washington would have done that. Then it was a question of scheduling those calls. Obviously time difference is a factor. By that stage I am advised that processes were working normally and that the normal processes that I described this morning were followed.

Senator WONG: Did Mr Norman have a role on this occasion?

Ms Adamson : As I said, by this stage processes were settled, normal protocols were in place and the call happened along very routine lines.

Senator WONG: What does that mean?

Ms Adamson : What that means is the embassy contacts the White House and says, 'We want to arrange a phone call.' I know that the US embassy here in Canberra would have been putting the same message through. All the things that are normally done and calls arranged between leaders were done.

Senator WONG: Where was Mr Turnbull when the call took place? Was he at The Lodge or was he at Kirribilli?

Ms Adamson : From my reading of the estimates Hansard from yesterday—

Senator WONG: So you do read the estimates Hansard. So you knew the Greg Norman issue was coming up, but you did not want to answer it.

Ms Adamson : That was over the lunch break. Our PM&C colleagues advised that the Prime Minister was in Sydney when that talk took place.

Senator WONG: Did DFAT have a note taker present?

Ms Adamson : No, and nor would we normally, as I have explained.

Senator WONG: That is not always the case.

Ms Adamson : With respect, it would be almost unheard of for a DFAT note taker to be present when the Prime Minister is making a phone call.

Senator WONG: Did DFAT get confirmation that the call had occurred?

Ms Adamson : Yes, as I said this morning.

Senator WONG: From whom?

Ms Adamson : I was contacted by the Prime Minister's office and advised that the call had taken place.

Senator WONG: No. I was asking you in relation to the first call. I am not asking you in relation to the second call.

Ms Adamson : In relation to the first call it quickly became public knowledge that the call had taken place. I cannot remember precisely at what point I knew, but I knew we had been pressing for it. I was not at all surprised to hear that it had taken place, and I am sure someone would have told me.

Senator WONG: So the PMO contacted DFAT to say the call had taken place, or PM&C?

Ms Adamson : On Sunday morning the PMO let me know because we had been expecting the call. That was just as a courtesy to confirm that it had taken place.

Senator WONG: Can I ask, which person holding which position in the PMO?

Ms Adamson : The person who contacted me was the acting international adviser.

Senator WONG: Is there a read-out of that call that you have seen?

Ms Adamson : As I said this morning, I was given a very brief read-out at the time. I have not seen a—

Senator WONG: No, this is in relation to the second call, not the first.

Ms Adamson : Yes, in relation to the second.

Senator WONG: In relation to the second call, just a brief read-out orally?

Ms Adamson : Yes.

Senator WONG: So nothing has been written down that you have seen?

Ms Adamson : I have not seen a written record, no.

Senator WONG: Do you know how long the call lasted?

Ms Adamson : I know that the White House briefed out that the call, I think, took 25 minutes. That was the White House office, that the press secretary issued on 28 January which, of course, was their time, the 29th ours, and as I recollect, that came out relatively soon, within a couple of hours of the call having taken place.

Senator WONG: Do you know how long the call was originally scheduled for?

Ms Adamson : No, I do not know, but a 25-minute phone call with a newly elected president is about what we would normally expect.

Senator WONG: Do you know who terminated the call?

Ms Adamson : I was not present for the phone call.

Senator WONG: That was not my question.

Ms Adamson : No, I do not know who terminated the call. I do know what the Prime Minister said to 60 Minutes on 5 February that the call ended courteously. I presume they both hung up at the same time.

Senator WONG: Can I go now to the Special Envoy for Human Rights and some follow-up to my questions in the last round of estimates. Firstly, just by way of introduction, you would agree that Australia, under both parties of government, has consistent and continued priority on the promotion and protection of human rights internationally?

Ms Adamson : Yes.

Senator WONG: In relation to Mr Ruddock, what do we call him? Is he Special Envoy or Envoy Ruddock?

Dr Strahan : Special Envoy for Human Rights.

Senator WONG: Does he have an honorific title?

Dr Strahan : No. We just use that title.

Senator WONG: Your Envoy?

Dr Strahan : We just use that title.

Senator WONG: So he is not Your Excellency or anything like that?

Dr Strahan : No.

Senator WONG: As at the October estimates you told me he travelled five times?

Dr Strahan : Yes.

Senator WONG: How many trips has he taken since we last met or since that evidence was given?

Dr Strahan : He has undertaken two more trips.

Senator WONG: Two more since October. Can I have, on notice, an updated list of trips taken including the original five trips, the purpose of each trip, a list of who he met with and for what purpose, a breakdown of costs for each trip, airfares, accommodation, ground transport, transportation, meals, incidentals and staff costs. Does he travel with personnel staff?

Dr Strahan : No. He travels with one DFAT officer and usually the resident head of mission or another senior person from one of our missions.

Senator WONG: Can you let me know, of those staff, have they been asked to meet any of Special Envoy Ruddock's costs whilst travelling. There might be a couple more questions on notice. I was a little confused about payment. We had a conversation on the last occasion where you said that you presented him with a contract post him leaving parliament. He went and sought advice about his pension. Correct?

Dr Strahan : Yes.

Senator WONG: And that included legal advice? Did you get some legal advice about that?

Dr Strahan : No, he sought advice.

Senator WONG: Which he then provided to you?

Dr Strahan : Yes.

Senator WONG: And what did you do with that advice?

Dr Strahan : We took note of it. His superannuation arrangements were a matter for him and the Department of Finance.

Senator WONG: So what did you take note of?

Dr Strahan : The conclusion it led us to draw is that we could see an inconsistency between the treatment of former parliamentarians who did jobs for us based in Australia as an ambassador or special envoy, like Mr Ruddock, and former parliamentarians who were placed in a position overseas as a head of mission. There was an inconsistency there and we wanted to make sure that we had some consistency, which we have subsequently dealt with.

Senator WONG: Tell me what that inconsistency was.

Dr Strahan : The inconsistency relates to the Parliamentary Contributory Superannuation Act 1948. It is quite an old act. It has a very narrow definition of the term 'office for profit' which would capture a former parliamentarian sent to a position overseas as a head of mission but we realised, late last year, did not capture a former parliamentarian who performs a thematic role based in Australia not accredited to a foreign head of state. We have found a work-around addressing that inconsistency so it is no longer applies.

Senator WONG: I will come to the work-around but so I understand the legal arrangement; let us call it John Smith. So if John Smith or Jane Smith—and it sounds like Mr and Mrs Smith, does it not, but there is no Angelina in this—if John Smith gets a job as the US ambassador, is a former parliamentarian and he is eligible under the 1948 scheme, his pension is reduced by the amount he is paid as the head of mission. Is that correct?

Dr Strahan : Yes.

Senator WONG: Under the act?

Dr Strahan : Yes.

Senator WONG: But the advice was that if John Smith is appointed as the Special Envoy for Human Rights but based in Australia primarily, so does visits elsewhere but stays in Australia, his pension under that act was not required to be reduced?

Dr Strahan : Yes, because the definition of 'office for profit' in the act is fairly narrow. It applies to former parliamentarians being appointed, for instance, as a secretary of a department, a judge or a head of mission under the Vienna Convention.

Senator WONG: Can you repeat that sentence?

Dr Strahan : The office for profit part of the relevant act defines 'office of profit' quite narrowly. It only specifies a limited number of positions: a secretary of the department, a judge or a head of mission accredited to a foreign government under the Vienna Convention.

Senator WONG: The reason it does not contemplate a special envoy is this is a new thing that has been created under certainly this government. Was there one previously? Certainly this government has created a few special envoys.

Dr Strahan : We would, in fact, see the term 'special envoy' as interchangeable with 'ambassador'. It performs the same role and other individuals in the past have been appointed to such roles.

Senator WONG: That is an ambassador.

Ms Adamson : We can check that for you. It seemed to me not to be new but we would have to go back and have a look at what happened previously.

Senator WONG: I am not going to press that point. It was an observation. You then said, 'We had a work-around'. What is the work-around?

Dr Strahan : The work-around is that we discovered that if the position of Special Envoy for Human Rights was referred to the Remuneration Tribunal that would mean that it became an office of profit. That has been done and the tribunal reached a ruling on 13 February. On 24 February that ruling—

Senator WONG: As in just six days ago, or the year before?

Dr Strahan : 13 February, so three weeks ago.

Senator WONG: So this year; not last year?

Dr Strahan : Yes.

Senator WONG: Ruling in February 2017.

Dr Strahan : And that has now been—

Senator WONG: Just in time for estimates. That is good.

Dr Strahan : No.

Senator WONG: I should put a little flag out when I am really angry as opposed to when I am not. So that ruling closes the loop as it were?

Dr Strahan : Yes.

Senator WONG: Does that mean the reduction in Special Envoy Ruddock's pension only dates from the date of the decision of the Remuneration Tribunal?

Dr Strahan : Yes.

Senator WONG: So he has essentially been paid both as the special envoy and his full pension without reduction for the period in between him leaving parliament and was it 13 February?

Dr Strahan : Yes.

Senator WONG: What was the quantum of that?

Dr Strahan : I would have to give you that figure on notice.

Senator WONG: Now, you told me at the last estimates that the same arrangements as applied to Special Envoy Ruddock applied to the Ambassador for Women and Girls. Is that still your evidence?

Dr Strahan : They do, but there was an inconsistency in the treatment of the two positions.

Senator WONG: Correct, because the Ambassador for Women and Girls accepted the reduction in her pension?

Dr Strahan : She did.

Senator WONG: Whereas Special Envoy Ruddock did not accept it?

Dr Strahan : He asked a question and was advised by Finance. That goes to his discussions with Finance and Ms Stott Despoja's discussions with Finance, which I would not comment on.

Senator WONG: Whatever, he continued to receive both the full pension plus whatever remuneration you gave him and she did not; is that right?

Dr Strahan : Yes.

Senator WONG: So they were not under the same arrangements?

Dr Strahan : This goes to the administration of the Superannuation Act, which we do not administer.

Senator WONG: You told me on the last occasion that they were the same arrangements.

Dr Strahan : Yes, but we became aware of this inconsistency in October.

Senator WONG: After I asked you questions?

Dr Strahan : Yes.

Senator WONG: Has there been any retrospective change to either of the arrangements?

Dr Strahan : No. As I understand it, they cannot be made retrospectively. The law was the law at the time and if we changed the arrangements and the legal arrangement became different then it would have to apply from that date onwards.

Senator WONG: Has there been any additional payment to put them on the same footing? I am sorry. It is just your answer appears to be, yes, they are the same but it is not consistent with the earlier answer which said, 'Yes, Ambassador'—as she was then—'Stott Despoja reduced her pension for the period she was appointed as the ambassador.'

Dr Strahan : Again, I would say that the superannuation arrangements between Ms Stott Despoja and Finance would be a matter for either Ms Stott Despoja or Finance to comment on.

Senator WONG: Were you advised?

Dr Strahan : Advised of?

Senator WONG: About what arrangements, post the ruling, for post-October after you had discerned this legal anomaly, were you advised by Ms Stott Despoja or Finance about what arrangements were entered into?

Dr Strahan : Finance and Ms Stott Despoja said they would take that conversation forward between them.

Senator WONG: Thank you. I think on the last occasion you told me that Special Envoy Ruddock reports directly to the foreign minister.

Dr Strahan : Yes.

Senator WONG: How many meetings has he had since we last met with the foreign minister?

Dr Strahan : I think my evidence actually was that he reports to the foreign minister via the department and via me.

Senator WONG: Yes, 'He reports to the foreign minister and he works closely with me and the other staff in my division who handle human rights.'

Dr Strahan : Yes.

Senator WONG: How many meetings since we last met has he had with the foreign minister?

Dr Strahan : I am not aware of that and I would have to take that on notice.

Senator WONG: Thank you. What are some of the issues that he is prosecuting or advocating on some of these trips?

Dr Strahan : In presenting our case for election to the Human Rights Council for the term 2018-2020 he is essentially putting forward our case for election, which is based in part upon our five campaign pillars, which are gender equality, Indigenous rights, good governance, freedom of expression and independent national human rights institutions. He is also making the very valid point that this would be our first time on the council. He is pointing out that we would be, if elected, the first country elected from the Pacific region so we would bring a Pacific voice to the council's operations. He is pointing out, for instance, that we established a very good record when we were on the UN Security Council for being both principled but practical, so he is setting out broadly the reasons why a country should support us.

Senator WONG: Has there been any feedback from posts or from any DFAT staff about his performance?

Dr Strahan : I am very pleased to say that Mr Ruddock has been successful in gaining new pledges of support for our campaign and reaffirming many other pledges. I will not specify the countries because, frankly, that provides information to our opponents, but he has done a very good job in getting new pledges for us and reconfirming pledges we regarded as uncertain or unreliable. Many countries have greatly appreciated that a senior former cabinet minister is coming to them specifically to raise our case, that we are not just doing it through bureaucratic channels or from a distance. It has been enormously appreciated that he makes these trips on our behalf.

Senator WONG: Have there been any concerns raised regarding his performance by any member of the DFAT staff?

Dr Strahan : Mr Ruddock has been working very closely with us. He listens to advice.

Senator WONG: That is not what I asked.

Dr Strahan : No. No, staff have not raised with me concerns about him damaging our campaign or anything else.

Senator WONG: Any concerns about his performance?

Dr Strahan : No. He has been an agreeable person to work with.

Senator WONG: What is the period for which he has been appointed?

Dr Strahan : His current arrangement runs through until 31 October.

Senator WONG: This year?

Dr Strahan : This year, which is likely a week or two after the vote on our bid.

Senator WONG: I am conscious that my colleague has been here for some time so she may want to ask some questions.

CHAIR: Senator Moore, in this space or in a different space?

Senator MOORE: No—

CHAIR: I do want to go to Senator Fawcett.

Senator MOORE: Is that in the same space?

Senator FAWCETT: It relates to the appointment of an ambassador.

Senator MOORE: That is fine.

CHAIR: Senator Fawcett and then I will come back to you, Senator Moore.

Senator FAWCETT: Page 18 of the portfolio budget statement talks about the department expanding the network of bilateral cyber policy dialogues to include Indonesia as well as China, India, Japan and the Republic of Korea. It goes on to talk about the appointment of Australia's first cyber ambassador. I am wondering if you can give us a bit more detail as to what that work involves and what the role of the cyber ambassador will be.

Ms Adamson : Let me introduce Australia's first Ambassador for Cyber Affairs, Dr Tobias Feakin.

Dr Feakin : Perhaps if I just discuss my role first and then we can talk a little bit about some of the bilateral relationships that we are furthering. My role was established, as you rightly pointed out, as part of the cybersecurity strategy last April by the Prime Minister. It is part of a new governance structure that has been put in place by the government to govern cybersecurity. I can split my role into two. Firstly, there is a domestic responsibility which is trying to coordinate, across government, all of our different international engagements, interests, programs of work and trying to provide some coherence and, of those, currently developing an international engagement strategy for cyber which will put into words what Australia hopes to achieve in the cyber space over the coming years and also looks to tie together all those different elements of work.

The second part of that is the obvious part which is delivering those internationally through the range of our bilateral engagements through multilateral forums and through a range of activities, including speaking at conferences to raise the profiles of our various different interests abroad.

So, in relation to the bilateral engagements that you mentioned, we have a series of bilateral discussions that are taking place, the most recent of which was announced with Indonesia. We also have one with South Korea, China and India. Through those what we are trying to pursue is a clear understanding of not only what cyber policies those countries are pursuing but what their perspectives might be on aspects of human rights online and of what their expectations will be of appropriate state behaviour in cyberspace, so it is a clear program that we engage with to try and shape what is a new, emerging strategic policy issue.

Senator FAWCETT: Is your focus predominantly on, for example, commercial activities, prevention of theft of IP and other such work or does it overlap with agencies such as ASD here in Australia in looking at that national security aspect of cyber?

Dr Feakin : It is a broad ranging remit. The title that was given to the position was cyber affairs and that is to reflect the broad ranging nature now of this topic. In terms of what I am responsible for delivering, that would include trying to promote better cybersecurity amongst our regional partners. We do that through various forms and through a capacity building program that was established under the cybersecurity strategy as well. That looks to promote better cybersecurity and better cyber hygiene in governments across the region. That benefits Australia for companies doing business in digital economies around the region. If they have a better baseline of cybersecurity then we stand to benefit in the longer term.

Also, through the role, we are looking to try and promote a whole range of activities, one of which I will refer to again as the international security aspects. The fact that as it is a relatively new area of policy we are trying to actively shape the international conversation on what international norms of behaviour for states might look like, to try and actively shape that through our bilateral and multilateral engagements.

Also established under the cybersecurity strategy was the understanding that we would try to create a stronger cybersecurity industry here in Australia, so I would see very clearly part of my role as trying to understand where opportunities might be for Australian industry in order that they can make the most of this emerging economic area as much as an emerging security area.

Senator FAWCETT: You have talked about the dialogue and increasing understanding. Do you envisage that an outcome of this program could be acceptance of common standards or approaches between nations such as we see in aviation and the use of the electromagnetic spectrum in radio and other communications and/or actual partnerships with nations in this area?

Dr Feakin : We would like to see, at some point, at the state level, that there is some sort of agreement to accepted limitations, if you like, on activities that are going on in cyberspace currently. In terms of the more technical side of the house, do we reach common cybersecurity standards internationally? We could certainly aspire to do that. The jury is out, currently, as to how realistic it is to reach that point.

Senator FAWCETT: So we have, for example, Geneva conventions around the rules of war. Do you envisage, ultimately, this could lead to an international agreement around how state actors should interact in this space?

Dr Feakin : Australia has been heavily involved in the UN Group of Government Experts in looking at cyber issues broadly defined. That group has already agreed that international law applies in cyberspace, so that would include the laws of armed conflict. We have reached that juncture but it also plays to differing opinions that maybe ourselves and like minded countries have in terms of what is the most logical avenue for creating a little bit more certainty in cyberspace. We would certainly lean towards the normative approach, much like the law of the sea, that if you have agreed principles that can be adhered to that is preferable to entering some sort of legally binding treaty or contract.

Senator FAWCETT: Thank you for that. In continuing on the security aspect, can you talk about our ongoing and planned contributions to the Counter Daesh Coalition?

Ms Adamson : Yes, although we probably had more detail given during Defence estimates. I would ask Mr Innes-Brown, who has all of the detail at his fingertips, to come forward again. We are absolutely committed, obviously, to continuing to be part of the Counter Daesh Coalition, both militarily and in terms of the diplomacy that is involved in that.

Senator WONG: That is a whole new section.

CHAIR: Do you want to come back to it later on?

Senator FAWCETT: I am happy to.

CHAIR: Are you happy to leave it and come back to it later on?

Senator FAWCETT: Yes. Mr Innes-Brown, if you talk to us about that.

Mr Innes-Brown : As you may have seen, we are awaiting the 30-day review. I understand that General Mattis presented that to the president today although we do not know the details. There has just been media reports that he has presented it but not the details. So, as covered in the Defence estimates, that will have some bearing on what happens in future but at the moment we are continuing to do what we are doing. Obviously in Iraq there has been significant military progress but we keep our contributions, both military and humanitarian and in other areas, under constant review. As I said, I think the 30-day review is the sort of reference point and then everyone will take stock after that and work out what, if anything, needs to change.

Senator FAWCETT: That is the point of my question to DFAT in that in the Defence estimates we talked about—if you want to term it that—our kinetic contribution, but clearly in terms of aid and other shaping operations that DFAT may be involved with, there is a different emphasis on how we may be involved with that group and our contributions, so I am just wondering if there is any update for the committee on how DFAT sees those alternative paths of contribution.

Mr Innes-Brown : We are making a contribution in a number of ways as you noted. In terms of humanitarian assistance, since 2014 in Iraq we have provided $70 million. That includes $10 million at the beginning of the Mosul operation.

Senator WONG: What was that figure? I thought you said seven and then 10.

Mr Innes-Brown : I said 70.

Senator WONG: 70?

Mr Innes-Brown : The amount of $70 million in total since June 2014 for Iraq and that includes $10 million that we announced in October for the commencement of the Mosul operation. We are keeping these issues under review and considering what we might do in the future, although we have not made any firm decisions about further humanitarian assistance.

We are also, as you know, providing assistance inside Syria and in neighbouring countries. We announced in the budget a new $220 million package of humanitarian assistance. That is both inside Syria and also to assist Jordan and Lebanon with the refugee populations, and we are beginning to implement that.

Senator KITCHING: Can I just ask?

CHAIR: Senator Kitching.

Senator KITCHING: Of the $220 million that is being spent inside Syria, what is it going to?

Mr Innes-Brown : What is it going to?

Senator KITCHING: I can understand, certainly, the refugee camps in Jordan, for example, but—

Mr Innes-Brown : We are providing humanitarian assistance. It is via trusted partners like the World Food program and other international partners.

Senator WONG: Could you provide, on notice perhaps, of the $200 million, rather than—

Senator KITCHING: Yes, thank you.

Senator WONG: Can you, on notice, give us how that is broken down?

Mr Innes-Brown : Sure.

Senator WONG: Do you have that there? Essentially we would like to understand where it is going.

Ms Adamson : Mr Exell can provide that in more detail if you would like.

Senator WONG: Sure.

Mr Exell : In regards to your question around the broader ways the department is looking to support countering violent extremism, the Minister for Foreign Affairs released yesterday a new framework.

Senator WONG: I thought we were on the $220 million.

Senator KITCHING: That is what I asked.

Senator WONG: We only have a few hours in this estimates. We have a lot of questions and a few senators and apparently government senators, too. We just wanted you to give us the breakdown of the $220 million. We can read what the minister announced yesterday on the website. Are you able to take that on notice or do you have that now?

Mr Innes-Brown : I can give you an outline. It is quite a detailed outline. It is over three years and we are funding different partners in different places but I can quickly give you that.

Senator KITCHING: Is that able to be tabled?

Senator WONG: Can you table something rather than sitting here reading everything out?

Mr McDonald : We will table something in the region and in those other countries we referred to.

Senator WONG: I appreciate that.

Senator KITCHING: That is perfect.

Mr McDonald : We will do that this afternoon. We will table something.

Senator KITCHING: I am interested because I imagine distributing aid inside Syria must be a rather fraught proposition.

Mr McDonald : Just on that, one of the things we consider is access. Access is really important, so which partners have access into Syria, and then outside it is really around Jordan and Lebanon, the support they need and the impact on things like education, water, jobs and livelihoods, et cetera. I think it is easier for us to give you a table during the afternoon that outlines that $220 million package.

Senator FAWCETT: I am very happy to hear about the support for Jordan and Lebanon. I met with representatives of Jordan four weeks ago and they outlined the incredible burden that that country is carrying but what also was highlighted was that other than the official programs there are many refugees, particularly from minority groups, that are essentially hosted within the community. I am wondering if we have any programs in place to try and support people who are not necessarily in UN-sponsored camps or to support the communities who are hosting and looking after them.

Mr Innes-Brown : I would say broadly—and I would have to take some of that on notice—the idea of our assistance inside Jordan and Lebanon is actually to help provide assistance for those communities. It is not just the Syrian refugees themselves but the broader community. What we are planning to do in Jordan and Lebanon, besides humanitarian assistance, a key thrust was actually education, which has been a big issue in making sure that particularly the refugee children have access. Obviously we are keen avoid a sense that there is a sort of double standard, if you will, that the refugee children are getting this high quality education and the local children are not. Often, as has been suggested, these refugees are in impoverished areas of those countries, so the design of the program is meant to support the communities as well as the refugees themselves.

Senator WONG: When was the last ministerial or equivalent level meeting in terms of the Counter ISIL Coalition?

Mr Innes-Brown : There are two tracks. There are defence ministers' meetings and there are foreign ministers' meetings. I would have to take on notice when the last defence ministers' meeting was. I believe there was a meeting in Brussels in February.

Senator WONG: When was the last foreign ministers' meeting?

Mr Innes-Brown : The last one was back in July.

Senator WONG: July last year?

Mr Innes-Brown : Yes.

Senator WONG: Is the difference between the two tracks—to use the term that Senator Fawcett referenced—that one is more focused on the kinetic contribution?

Mr Innes-Brown : They do get more detail in the defence ministers' meetings about some of the military planning, but certainly there is a briefing in the meetings that I have attended, including in July of last year. That was a joint meeting which had defence ministers and foreign ministers. A component of all of these meetings is that there is always a military briefing of what is happening in the campaign.

Senator WONG: What I am trying to get a sense of is what is the forum in which the broader strategic objectives are discussed, so not just what the military planning is but what the day-after scenario is. I appreciate that is a very difficult question. I am just trying to understand what the international forum is that is engaging on that issue. Is it these forums or is it via the UN process?

Mr Innes-Brown : A number of meetings happen. There are officials meetings that happen intersessionally, if you will, between these ministerial meetings. There are a number of working groups that happen. These are coordinated by the US Department of State. There are working groups on foreign terrorist fighters, on financing and on stabilisation.

Senator WONG: No. I am asking about the post-military conflict scenario in the region. I am sure I am not across everything but obviously I have some visibility of some of the matters that come within the purview of the PJCIS and so forth. I am actually asking where the discussion is occurring internationally about the day-after scenario, the post-military conflict scenario, particularly insofar as it relates to Syria.

Mr Innes-Brown : In relation to Syria, it is a broader issue than the Counter Daesh Coalition. Obviously there are international—

Senator WONG: No kidding!

Mr Innes-Brown : Yes, but I am just trying to explain the complexity. There is not one location.

Senator WONG: So what are the governments?

Mr Innes-Brown : With Syria, in particular, there is a number of different things. Obviously we have discussions in the coalition on operations relating to Daesh but—

Senator WONG: How would you describe this government's strategic objectives in Syria?

Mr Innes-Brown : We are to encourage efforts to provide a political solution and also to alleviate the humanitarian suffering.

Senator WONG: Where are the efforts to find a political solution located? How are we doing that?

Mr Innes-Brown : There are meetings every week in Geneva at officials level. Under the International Syria Support Group there is a ceasefire task force meeting and there is also a humanitarian access meeting. In the margins those meetings are held weekly and they inevitably traverse the political situation. The UN Special Envoy, Staffan de Mistura, is inevitably there, or often there, to talk about what he is doing and people engage him about that effort. Those meetings—

Senator WONG: My question is less wanting a description of the very many UN processes and multilateral processes and trying to understand what we are doing.

Mr Innes-Brown : I just described it. We have people that go to these meetings every week.

Senator WONG: You have people that go to these meetings?

Mr Innes-Brown : Yes. Our mission in Geneva is there and they attend these meetings every week. They are urging them. Last September there were meetings in New York at ministerial level that Minister Bishop was at. In recent time the locus of activity has remained in Geneva but there have also been meetings in Astana.

Senator WONG: In?

Mr Innes-Brown : Astana, Kazakhstan, that the Russians convened with the Iranians and the Turks. Those meetings have been selective in their invites. I think in the period in which there was a change of US administration those meetings have happened and that is where the dynamic has shifted, but at the moment there are talks in Geneva that Staffan de Mistura is convening. Our mission is active around the scenes, including talking to countries involved and also some of the opposition—

Senator WONG: Through all of these various forums has the government expressed a consistent position or has the government expressed a particular view about its preference or its proposition as to what the post-military conflict arrangements in Syria might look like? I am trying to understand. Do we simply participate? I am not making a judgment; I am just trying to get a sense of what our role is. Do we have a particular view about characteristics associated with any political settlement and so forth?

Mr Innes-Brown : There is the UN Security Council resolution which maps out, in broad terms, what the process is and what the character of the Syrian state would be; however, I think we are realistic. Ultimately the precise details will come out of the negotiations between the parties, so we are not prescriptive about that.

Senator WONG: Have we expressed a view in relation to the Kurdish population?

Mr Innes-Brown : No, not specifically. That is an issue that will have to be addressed as part of the negotiations in terms of the Kurdish area of Syria.

Senator WONG: Prime Minister May spoke with Prime Minister Turnbull on 23 February 2017. A read-out of that call was issued by Downing Street but there was no read out, as I understand it, issued by the Australian government. Is that correct?

Ms Adamson : I have not seen a read-out of that call.

Senator WONG: The third last paragraph of that read-out was, 'They'—meaning Prime Minister Turnbull and Prime Minister May—'discussed our cooperation in the campaign to defeat Daesh and agreed on the importance of creating the conditions for long-term stability in Iraq. Prime Minister May was clear we need to see a political transition in Syria away from President al-Assad.' I just want to understand this. That is an articulation of the British position. Would that reflect your understanding of the Australian government's position?

Mr Innes-Brown : As I said, as a general proposition there have been statements made at Geneva and also the UN Security Council resolution says there needs to be a political transition and that is our view. The precise details of when al-Assad would go or if he will go, that is a matter for the negotiations. Our position is realistic. He is there. He is in power. Given the level of support that he currently enjoys from some key players he is going to be part of the negotiations, so that is our position on that. He has clearly been responsible for some terrible atrocities but the reality of the situation is, in negotiations, he will play at least a role in those negotiations. Exactly how long he stays on or what his future position is, that is unclear.

Senator WONG: Has the position that you have just outlined been articulated elsewhere by ministers?

Ms Adamson : Yes.

Mr Innes-Brown : I think the foreign minister has made a number of statements to that effect.

Ms Adamson : Over a long period of time, accepting that reality, as Mr Innes-Brown has said, that Bashar al-Assad is in power and will need to be part of discussions on Syria's future, although what those time frames might be and in what form that might take, that is still very much to be determined.

Senator WONG: The Prime Minister has made some statements about this but I just want to confirm this. Can you tell me what the Australian government's position is on the case to increase Australia's commitment in the Middle East?

Mr Innes-Brown : Can you repeat that?

Senator WONG: What is the Australian government's position in relation to potential increases to Australia's military commitments in the Middle East?

Mr Innes-Brown : I said that there has been no decision made on any change at this stage.

Senator WONG: Former Prime Minister Abbott has stated that Australia should do more in the Middle East. Does his position reflect the government's position?

Senator Brandis: Mr Abbott's position reflects Mr Abbott's opinions. He is not a member of the government, as I think you are aware.

Senator WONG: Do you think there is a risk that, given his profile and given the fact that he was a former leader of not only the party but a former Prime Minister, internationally expressions of his public view could be misinterpreted as an official position?

Senator Brandis: No, I do not think there is any risk. I think those who take an interest in these things would be well aware that Mr Abbott is a former Prime Minister who is not a member of the Australian government.

Senator WONG: He is probably technically still a member of the government.

Senator Brandis: No, technically he is not a member of the government.

Senator WONG: He is not a member of the executive; that is true. I just have a couple of more questions or probably comments just to confirm. In relation to the relocation of the Israel embassy, Mr Abbott has suggested publicly that Australia should move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Can I just confirm that is not the Australian government's position?

Mr Innes-Brown : The Australian government's position is that we have no plans to move the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

Senator WONG: Has the foreign minister made that clear, that Mr Abbott's position is not hers and not the government's? Is there a public statement to that effect?

Senator Brandis: On the issue of the embassy in Israel?

Senator WONG: Correct.

Ms Adamson : The foreign minister has outlined Australia's position in exactly the terms that Mr Innes-Brown just described.

Senator KITCHING: Was that as a result of a discussion or any conversations the foreign minister had with, for example, Vice-President Pence?

Ms Adamson : The foreign minister enunciated Australia's position. I cannot recall the context but my recollection is that it had no link to any conversations—

Senator KITCHING: I just wondered.

Ms Adamson : I think that is the courtesy.

Senator KITCHING: In the discussion?

Ms Adamson : Yes.

Senator KITCHING: Given that President Trump has actually articulated a view about—

Ms Adamson : I think the question would have been put against the backdrop of what President Trump had had to say on the matter when the foreign minister enunciated Australia's position which is that there are no plans to move our embassy from Tel Aviv.

Senator WONG: Former Prime Minister Abbott has also urged what he describes as a one-page FTA with the UK. Can I be clear? Is that the Australian government's position?

Ms Adamson : I will ask Deputy Secretary Brown, who has been involved in discussions with the United Kingdom, on the sort of agreement that we might reach post-Brexit, emphasising that it would need to be post-Brexit.

Mr Brown : As I recall it, the comments made by Mr Abbott were that we should aim for a single-page FTA with the UK and have a high level of integration in terms of professional recognition of standards and qualifications. I think the Australian government's position is that we want a comprehensive, high-quality free trade agreement with the UK when it is in a position to do so once it has left the EU. We have not been specific about the length of the agreement.

Senator WONG: What was your phrase—high-quality and comprehensive agreement that is a single page?

Mr Brown : The government does not have a position on the length of the agreement.

Senator WONG: Well answered. He does not give up, does he?

Senator KITCHING: If Marine Le Pen were to be successful in the French elections, she has indicated that France would have a Frexit. Would we also enter into an agreement with France, whether it is a single page or not?

Senator WONG: Can you take that on notice?

Ms Adamson : Yes.

Senator WONG: I do not want it to take up my time. I noticed—because I actually think he went to PNG shortly after I did—that Mr Abbott visited Papua New Guinea late last year. Are you aware of that?

Ms Adamson : We have records of former prime ministerial travel only in as much as the post being requested to provide assistance. Ms Logan will be able to answer that question.

Ms Logan : Yes, Mr Abbott visited PNG from 2 to 3 November last year.

Senator WONG: Has Mr Turnbull visited Papua New Guinea yet?

Ms Adamson : Mr Turnbull has not yet visited Papua New Guinea as Prime Minister.

Senator WONG: Has he ever visited?

Ms Adamson : I do not know the answer to that question, but I would expect he would be making a visit before too long.

Senator WONG: Ahead of APEC?

Ms Adamson : Certainly ahead of APEC, which is not due until next year. We are currently in discussions with Papua New Guinea about a suitable date for a visit. I was there last week myself.

Senator WONG: In September of last year at then President Obama's leaders summit on the global refugee crisis, Australia pledged to do more at that summit. I assume DFAT was involved in developing the Australian position for that summit. In fact, you were in the picture. I have just seen the newspaper article. You were just behind the Prime Minister, Ms Adamson, so you were there.

Ms Adamson : I was certainly there.

Senator WONG: Yes.

Ms Adamson : But not at the global refugee summit. I accompanied for parts of the program but I was not directly involved in the summit. However, Mr McDonald knows a little more about it.

Mr McDonald : Yes. This is the compact that was agreed in New York. Mr Isbister can give you some detail on that.

Mr Isbister : Can you just ask the question again?

Senator WONG: I do not know what it was. I worked out that you must have been there because Ms Adamson is sitting behind Mr Turnbull. DFAT's role in developing the Australian position, can I call it a pledge?

Mr Isbister : It was a commitment that was made at the summit.

Senator WONG: A commitment.

Mr Isbister : DFAT's role at the refugee summit that President Obama called and then there was also one alongside that the UN Secretary-General called was to try and look at the issue about how to develop a comprehensive approach to dealing with the challenges of over 65 million people displaced globally. DFAT's role was how we fund agencies to tackle that situation. The government made a commitment of $130 million. That consisted of a new three-year partnership with UNHCR to support their efforts to meet the needs of refugees, not only—

Senator WONG: Thank you. You gave me this in question on notice 104 so I can read that, but that did not deal with one of the matters which has been raised publicly which includes a consideration of a request for a particular refugee intake.

Mr Isbister : This is in terms of resettling people in Australia?

Senator WONG: Correct.

Mr Isbister : That is probably a question more particularly for DIBP.

Senator WONG: And we have asked questions of them but I am trying to understand your involvement.

Mr Isbister : Obviously in terms of the summit it was looking at two main issues. One was how governments would increase their resettlement of refugees in third countries, and obviously the DIBP takes a lead on that. The second aspect was how we were also better supporting countries of first asylum to deal with refugees that have moved across borders, whether that is in Lebanon, Jordan, Kenya, Tanzania or Uganda. It was obviously a joint position of both DIBP and DFAT that led on with our primary role being around how we supported the international efforts and particularly how host countries deal with refugees arriving in their countries.

Senator WONG: Did you call them secondary? What was the phrase in respect of the first category? Not post country—

Mr Isbister : In terms of resettling in a country of third asylum, so refugees have moved from their country.

Senator WONG: Yes. I just wanted to get the terminology correct.

Mr Isbister : A country of third settlement.

Senator WONG: When did you become aware that the United States had requested that Australia reconsider settling Central American refugees under the auspices of the arrangement? Which arrangement is it? It is just referred to as the arrangement. Do you want me to repeat that?

Dr Shaw : Yes.

Senator WONG: I think it has been clear from what has been said, and evidence before more than one Senate committee, that the United States requested that Australia consider resettling Central American refugees under the auspices of the arrangement? I wanted to know when DFAT became aware of that request.

Ms Adamson : We would have to take that on notice. These really are questions for DIBP.

Senator WONG: As I understand Mr Isbister's evidence DFAT officials were involved at least in discussions about both arrangements; that is, discussions about increasing the refugee intake from countries—and did you describe it as a third settlement?

Mr Isbister : Yes. It was settling in countries of—

Senator WONG: Increasing the intake for countries of third settlement; is that right?

Mr Isbister : Yes, so basically countries who were resettling refugees would increase their intake.

Senator WONG: So DFAT was involved in discussions about that resettlement as well as discussions about how to best support host countries?

Mr Isbister : Yes, and our primary focus was around how we support the international efforts.

Senator WONG: Were DFAT officials involved in negotiations in relation to the former?

Mr Isbister : In relation to?

Senator WONG: The former.

Mr Isbister : Broadly, in terms of being aware of the numbers that they were looking at but not in terms of any detail of what those numbers in countries would be.

Ms Adamson : I am not trying to be difficult but this was part of a broader multilateral process.

Senator WONG: Yes, I am aware of that. That is precisely why I am asking you.

Ms Adamson : I think the question that you asked was on a specific arrangement, and that really is a DIBP question.

Senator WONG: No, I did not. I asked you when you became aware of the specific request.

Ms Adamson : I would have to take that on notice.

Senator WONG: No-one knows? When did you first become aware of the request in relation to—and how did I describe it?

Ms Adamson : You used the word 'arrangement'.

Senator WONG: Resettling Central American refugees. That was a US request. When did DFAT officials first become aware of that request?

Ms Adamson : I said we would take that on notice.

Senator WONG: Does no-one know? Was it part of the discussions in September?

Mr Isbister : I can say I became aware of it in the media.

Senator WONG: Only in the media?

Mr Isbister : From my perspective, yes.

Senator WONG: So you will find out when the department first knew. We also know, because it has been the subject of much discussion, that there is an arrangement or there are arrangements which are being finalised—however one chooses to put it—in relation to the resettlement of people currently on Manus and Nauru with the United States. Yes?

Ms Adamson : Yes.

Senator WONG: And DFAT has some knowledge of that?

Ms Adamson : DFAT does indeed have some knowledge of that.

Senator WONG: When were you first aware of that proposition?

Ms Adamson : I would need to take that on notice. You are asking very specific questions and I am afraid I just do not carry that detail in my head.

Senator WONG: I know you are very bright, so I am sure that you have a lot of detail in your head.

Ms Adamson : I wish I could answer every question without taking any on notice.

Senator WONG: I am sure you do. So DFAT does have knowledge of it and you will tell me when you became aware of it. Is that right?

Ms Adamson : Yes.

Senator WONG: Have you been at meetings where that arrangement or that proposal has been discussed?

Ms Adamson : That would go to various processes that I am not able to discuss.

Senator WONG: With representatives of the US?

Ms Adamson : No.

Senator WONG: Dr Shaw, have you?

Dr Shaw : No.

Senator WONG: So is DFAT involved in any official level meetings currently? I will rephrase that. Since the election of the new president have DFAT officials or staff been involved in any meetings where the Manus and Nauru arrangements have been discussed with members of the US administration?

Ms Adamson : Our embassy in the United States is mostly involved in one form or another in all aspects of our interactions with the United States on a very wide range of policy areas so I would say the answer to your question is yes. Certainly in the case of the embassy, whether there have been other officials who have also been involved, I would like to also take that on notice.

Senator WONG: And presumably those discussions would be reported back through the normal way of cables or whatever to DFAT Canberra?

Ms Adamson : It depends a bit on the nature of the discussions, who is in the lead and all the rest of it, but normally we keep track of these things.

Senator WONG: What do you understand the link to be between the arrangements regarding people on Manus and Nauru and the arrangements we have been discussing, or the requests we have been discussing, in relation to Central American refugees?

Ms Adamson : I know the Australian government has consistently said that Australia's involvement in the protection and transfer arrangement is not part of a people swap.

Senator WONG: I did not use the words 'people swap'.

Ms Adamson : I know you did not use the word 'swap' but you asked me if there was a linkage.

Senator WONG: No. I asked you what you understand the link to be.

Ms Adamson : I do not understand there to be a link.

Senator WONG: You do not believe there is any link?

Ms Adamson : I am not aware that there is a link, no.

Senator WONG: What about you, Dr Shaw? Do you understand there to be any link?

Dr Shaw : No, there is no link. I would add as well, if I may, that the Department of Immigration and Border Protection are the ones who are leading on the conversations with the US on the settlement arrangements, including on the screening and the vetting issues of people on Manus and Nauru.

Senator WONG: Thank you.

CHAIR: Senator Moore.

Mr McDonald : Just before you start can I table this table of $220 million for Syria.

Senator WONG: Excellent.

Mr McDonald : Then we can take any questions that you wish.

Senator MOORE: I will start with the global gag. I have four different areas to go to overall and we will put a lot on notice. There were some preliminary questions asked by Senator Ludlam before the break and I wanted to follow up on a couple of things in that space, so I will just wait for Mr Exell to get here because he has got the folder. Thank you very much for the information you provided in the briefing session. It was very useful. Is there any update from that time in terms of understanding exactly what the impact is of the statement that has been released from the president?

Mr McDonald : Mr Exell would be best to give you that detail.

Mr Exell : Unfortunately no, there is no further update.

Senator MOORE: There is no more clarity about the situation?

Mr Exell : There is no more clarity.

Senator MOORE: Certainly you would be aware that there is a bit of a campaign happening to the minister. A lot of people are interested in the issue of effective sexual and reproductive health. In that campaign they are asking for a commitment to maintain services. We have had statements from the minister. A lot of the campaigns are actually appreciating that but in their letter they actually say:

The latest report by Family Planning 2020 shows Australia identified $17 million in bilateral family planning funding through foreign assistance in the year 2015-16. This represents almost half of what was committed the previous financial year.

Do we have figures that actually back that up?

Mr McDonald : Our figures on expenditure will come out next month. It is the new green book that Mr Woods is working through at the moment. I can confirm there will be a reduction but I cannot confirm what that figure is.

Senator MOORE: Can you confirm the $17 million for 2015-16? Is that an accurate figure?

Mr McDonald : I do not believe that it will be. I think it will be higher than that figure. I cannot confirm that until those final figures are checked.

Senator MOORE: Even though that relates to a financial year several months ago? That is fine. I just wondered.

Mr McDonald : Yes. It is hard to explain this but the CFO can. It takes a while, because we have to go across all of the programs.

Senator MOORE: I just wanted to know in terms of that process. Mr Exell, when we met we were going to get some figures from you about exactly where our money was going in this space under our current programs. We do not have that yet. That would be really useful because it would be a good basis. Is that also waiting on the data that is being collected for the report in a couple of weeks time?

Mr Exell : That is very close to finalisation. I am sure it will be with you shortly.

Senator MOORE: Good, because that gives us a base on which to operate. The other issue around that space is that there has been a significant meeting in March in Brussels called She Decides: Women's Reproductive and Sexual Health. A number of the European countries have got together in response, even at this early stage, to what could be the impact of a global gag and I am just wanting to know whether Australia was invited to be part of that and, if not, are there similar things going on in our part of the world?

Mr McDonald : The first answer is yes.

Senator MOORE: We were invited?

Mr McDonald : We were invited and, yes, we will be represented.

Senator MOORE: Who issued that invitation?

Mr McDonald : The invitation went to the foreign minister.

Senator MOORE: From?

Mr McDonald : And we will be represented by the ambassador for women and girls.

Senator MOORE: Where did the invitation come from?

Mr Exell : The Netherlands. It was co-hosted in the Netherlands. I will just double check the other co-host.

Senator MOORE: All right. I know that there have been lots of discussions. You would have seen it all and I know many senators are very interested in this space. You would have seen that there has been a lot of international discussion from the moment that order was signed about what the possible impacts could be. I know the Europeans have been taking a lead on that. So, on notice, if you can tell me who sent it. I am interested to know how this international work in this space is operating. We were formally invited through the Prime Minister, which would be appropriate, and we have sent the new ambassador for women and girls?

Mr McDonald : Yes. It is on today.

Senator MOORE: Are there any riding instructions on the ambassador about what she is allowed to say?

Mr McDonald : She will go and make a statement on behalf of Australia at that event, I am sure, subject to how the meeting unfolds—

Senator MOORE: Is that statement pre-approved? Is it something that we could get a copy of? I know that Dr Stone is more than capable of going into making her own statement. Is there an Australian statement that has been produced for her to make?

Mr McDonald : I think there will be and after that is delivered—

Senator MOORE: After the event, certainly, if we could get a copy of that formally.

Mr McDonald : Yes.

Senator MOORE: I am taking on board the question that Senator Brandis clarified before lunch. Is there any indication in that statement about an ability to be part of an international funding round?

Mr McDonald : The key thing from the Australian government's point of view is that our commitment to sexual and reproductive health is well known, including from the foreign minister. The foreign minister recently announced in February a third phase of the SPRINT program.

Senator MOORE: I have some questions around that too, because it is longstanding.

Mr McDonald : Yes. What we do each year, as I said earlier, is the foreign minister will make decisions on the aid budget for the next financial year. So our commitments this year are being met, as we stipulated. We do not have control over external things that happened during that time but, depending on the outcome of these conferences, then I am sure the foreign minister will consider that in the context.

Senator MOORE: We understand that.

Senator SINGH: You must know whether or not, today, when Brussels wakes up and the She Decides funding initiative gets underway, whether or not Australia will be making any new pledges like so many other countries are and will today in Brussels. Will we or won't we make a new pledge?

Mr McDonald : Yes, I am aware of what is likely to be said but I think it should be delivered by Australia. It is not my statement; it is a statement on behalf of the Australian government which will be delivered later today. As I said earlier, that will be known because it will be made in the context of the She Decides conference.

Mr Exell : If I can also add, part of the conversation with the Netherlands in the preparation was that it is not just a funding conference. Yes, some countries will be making funding statements but that is not the sole purpose; it is broadly support of family planning. It is not just a pledging or funding conference.

Senator SINGH: I know that but it is focusing on this massive cut in US aid that has now come about because of the decision by the new Trump administration to implement the global gag rule. Funding pledges is a fairly major part of this initiative. I understand it is in the context of family planning and sexual and reproductive health initiatives, but a lot of countries have already made it very clear they want to chip in.

Mr Exell : Yes, I understand that. Part of the issue for Australia is understanding the implications in our region for the partners and the countries that we work with and we do not yet have full clarity on those implications.

Mr McDonald : I think it is important to restate that on 15 February the foreign minister announced $9.5 million over three years for the SPRINT program.

Senator SINGH: That is a continuation of a program—which I know Senator Moore has questions on—that started in 2007. That is completely outside of what we are talking about that is going on in Brussels today in the sense of new pledges.

Mr McDonald : Yes, but not all countries will make pledges at these events. That never occurs. We are all caught by different budget arrangements and different situations that we are in. So, as I said, I think Australia being represented shows a commitment to the work in this area. Then, as we go forward, I am sure the Australian government will consider that amongst its development priorities for the next financial year.

Senator MOORE: And the minister has made her position clear by going out early and responding to the invitation from this particular grouping, so that is important. We will wait. I understand totally that we have to wait for it to be announced.

One of the things that we talked about previously was any possible impact on UNFPA because we have the cuts. From what I have seen from the order—and I have read it—when you read it, it says, 'Any organisation that does not sign up to ceasing any direct or indirect support for abortion will not be funded out of the aid program.' From your understanding of the process where does UNFPA fit into that scene? That is the UN element. The US has been providing significant funding to UNFPA over the last few years. From your experience of the research that you have done do you believe that UNFPA funding could be caught up in this particular global gag rule?

Mr Exell : Yes, we think that there is a likelihood that UNFPA will also be impacted, not by the same clauses that you have referred to, but the Castan amendment.

Senator MOORE: Yes.

Mr Exell : As we understand it that is something that has also been included. Again, we do not know the specifics and how it is being implemented, but there is that chance, yes.

Senator MOORE: Do you know who has turned up to the She Decides conference? Do you have a list of attendance?

Mr Exell : I do not have a list of attendance, no.

Senator MOORE: When Dr Stone returns she may well have documentation. Can we put on notice to find out. It will probably go into the media but it would just be useful to have who was there from the formal aspect of the Australian government.

Mr McDonald : We are happy to take that on notice.

Senator SINGH: Did you say that you were not aware of the size of the cut to the US aid budget in relation to this global gag?

Mr Exell : No. We were not aware of the specific implications for partners, particularly in our region. I am deliberately not talking about contents because we do not know the exact implications. We are talking with our partners. We have been talking with them for some time. We will stay in touch. They are letting us know but they do not know the exact implications yet.

Senator SINGH: So there is no estimated figure?

Mr Exell : I think there are some broad estimates, yes.

Senator SINGH: What are they?

Mr Exell : Again, I think they are in the tens of millions.

Senator SINGH: It is not US$600 million?

Mr Exell : I think you are talking about the overall health funding, not total family planning. Again, I am talking about specific implications on organisations such as IPPF and MSI.

Senator WONG: Is that an Australian government assessment or is that an NGO assessment of the effect? Was the figure you just outlined $10 million in our region?

Mr Exell : Tens of millions.

Senator WONG: Tens of millions.

Mr Exell : That is advice that we are getting from the affected NGOs themselves.

Senator WONG: Have you done an analysis of the potential scope and quantum?

Mr Exell : We are working with those partners. We do not know the extent of their funding from the US directly so we are relying on them.

Senator WONG: It is a fairly relevant matter for us, given our place in the region, to have an understanding of what the net effect of that policy is on our near neighbours. We are just trying to understand. Will you be in a position to be able to tell us, at an appropriate point, the effect of that on the Pacific region, in which we have a particular interest, or the ASEAN region, et cetera where, 'We think it is in the order of X'?

Mr Exell : Those are exactly the questions that we are asking our partners.

Senator WONG: Shall we put it on notice or should we wait?

Mr McDonald : Yes.

Senator WONG: I will put it on notice. When you have done it can we have that?

Mr McDonald : Can I say that from our point of view we have been very focused on this as well, as you can imagine. I think this decision was taken on 23 January or somewhere around that date. So we are working closely and as soon as we get clarity we are happy to provide that information on notice.

Senator SINGH: Also take into account that this is women's lives. As well as their health it is their lives. We are talking about maternal mortality rates. Perhaps a case study of Cambodia, for example, where Australia has made some gains over the years, would be a good example to reflect upon as far as looking at a country in our region at what effect this cut in funding would have.

Mr McDonald : Yes. I can only agree with you in terms of the number of mortalities associated. It is 48,000 or thereabout a year and 220,000 children orphaned a year. Australia is a very big supporter of the work in this area and that will not change going forward. Yes, we understand the importance of this.

Senator MOORE: Can you confirm that the two organisations to which we give funding that may be impacted, because we still do not have signatures, would be Planned Parenthood and Marie Stopes International?

Mr Exell : And UNFPA.

Senator MOORE: And UNFPA. Those are the ones that we are talking about?

Mr Exell : Yes.

Senator MOORE: I will come back to the other questions later.

CHAIR: Senator Wong.

Senator WONG: I have a question on notice that tells me that the cost of the 2014-15 program was $2.2 million. Is that a total cost? What is in that cost? This is question on notice 284.

Ms Adamson : I will ask Mr Wood to join us as well just to give an extra layer of confidence to what we say about the figures.

Ms Heckscher : You asked about the 2014-15 figures?

Senator WONG: No. I am going to ask you to give me all of them but I want to start with question on notice 284 where you told me it was $2,256,551. Is that not right?

Ms Heckscher : Is that expenditure or total?

Senator WONG: It is your answer. I have no idea. I just asked the question.

Ms Heckscher : I am sorry; I do not have the question on notice here.

Mr McDonald : Can you just confirm that number?

Senator WONG: It is question on notice 284. It is from 11 February 2016. I only received 2014-15 figures. I want to understand what is in that and then I want to—on notice or if you have it here—go through the other figures for the subsequent financial years.

Ms Heckscher : Taking note of what you just said about those figures having been provided a year ago the number we have or the figure I have for that total funding for 2014-15 is $2,188,355, so it is quite close.

Senator WONG: It is $2.188 million?

Ms Heckscher : Yes.

Senator WONG: Do you have a number for 2015-16?

Ms Heckscher : I do have a number for 2015-16. It is $1,928,066.

Senator WONG: 2016-17?

Ms Heckscher : The program for 2016-17 is still underway. I can give you figures as they stand but they are not final figures.

Senator WONG: That is fine.

Ms Heckscher : The expected figure that we have at the moment is $2,497,367.

Senator WONG: That is estimated actual expenditure or expenditure to date?

Ms Heckscher : I am just going to clarify. The current estimated cost is that figure. So far for 2016-17 expenses paid to date have been $1.508 million and the sponsorship agreements and funding so far received is $1,928,066, but there is more to come.

Senator WONG: So $1.508 million is actual expenditure.

Ms Heckscher : To date.

Senator WONG: The $2.497 million is estimated actual expenditure for the 2016-17 year?

Ms Heckscher : Yes.

Senator WONG: Can you tell me what heads of expenditure that includes? What are you including in that?

Ms Heckscher : I do not have a full detail of the expenditure but the expenditure includes things like venues, food and all of the arrangements for the events so far held. I do not have a full breakdown of all of that.

Senator WONG: Can you, on notice, provide a full breakdown of costs?

Ms Heckscher : Costs to date?

Senator WONG: For 2013-14, 2014-15, 2015-16 and 2016-17. Is that possible?

Mr Wood : Yes. We could do a broad general ledger code.

Senator WONG: However you can advise me. There is a separate cost centre attribution for flights; is that right? You are nodding.

Mr Wood : Yes. We will provide it in an appropriate format.

Senator WONG: So how does that work? What are you giving me here? You are giving me what you notionally allocate to G'Day USA?

Mr Wood : Yes.

Senator WONG: So if Ms Adamson goes—did you go?

Ms Adamson : I did not.

Senator WONG: Whoever goes and participates, so a DFAT official or post officials who join the foreign minister, are those costs captured in this? I assume they are not. They are actually captured through either the post or whatever cost centre Ms Adamson's travel is charged to; is that right?

Mr Wood : That would likely be the case. We could provide you with those direct costs that are coded, as we outlined earlier.

Senator WONG: I just want to know how much the whole thing costs.

Mr Wood : Yes.

Senator WONG: Is that possible?

Mr Wood : Yes.

Senator WONG: Tell me about Australia United States Business Week. Is that happening anymore?

Ms Adamson : Not in the format in which it previously took place.

Senator WONG: There was announcement with great fanfare last year; the inaugural year. I asked lots of questions at estimates about why you needed both and was told that they are very different. Are we cancelling it one year later?

Ms Adamson : G'Day takes a number of different forms, including on both sides of the continent. There was, in fact, particularly on the east coast, a focus on tourism and there was a business event, an economic outlook address. Both the Minister for Foreign Affairs and the Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment were involved in what was a very large number of events.

Senator WONG: No. You misunderstand my question. In 2016 there were two different DFAT organised weeks in the United States. There was G'Day USA, which was headlined by Ms Bishop, and then there was the Australia US Business Week, which was headlined by Minister Robb. The latter is no longer proceeding; is that correct?

Ms Adamson : Not proceeding in that form but our Austrade colleagues are best placed to talk to you about the business promotional arrangements.

Senator WONG: You are the secretary.

Ms Adamson : I realise that but I do not have responsibility for Austrade's detailed programs. I know we were planning to have, for this very reason, an Austrade colleague in the room. He might be able to answer those questions.

Senator WONG: I would like you both here.

Ms Adamson : I know and I had written to the chair after the last one to say we would have them here. We will get them here as quickly as we can.

Senator WONG: Thank you. Frankly, I was told at the time it was so important to have two different ones where, from the outside, I have got to say it looked like basically one minister wanted something and another minister has wanted something else, so the public paid for two and now they have been combined. I would like to understand the rationale for why we had one and now we do not have one anymore.

Ms Adamson : We will come back to you on that.

Senator WONG: When are we going to do that? I am just trying to find out the time.

Ms Adamson : As soon as we possibly can. We will get in touch with our Austrade colleagues now.

Senator WONG: Can they come, preferably, because I have had some difficulties. Is Mr Gosper still there?

Ms Adamson : No.

Senator WONG: Can they come with numbers please?

Ms Adamson : We will certainly ask them to do that.

Senator WONG: We had a couple of things to come back on. GNI was one of them. Are we able to do that?

Mr Wood : I can read out the GNI parameters that we have.

CHAIR: Just before you go on.

Senator WONG: He is just going to give a GNI figure.

Mr Wood : I am going to give several figures.

Senator WONG: Excellent.

Mr Wood : I will start off with 2016-17. These figures are in millions. There are quite a few numbers. The first one is for 2016-17, $1,680,936; for 2017-18, $1,755,040; for 2018-19, $1,834,100; and, for 2019-20, $1,924,300. Those are the parameters that we received from the Department of Finance that are based on the Budget Paper No. 1 information.

Senator WONG: This is a nominal figure?

Mr Wood : Yes.

Senator WONG: Tell me what this is.

Mr Wood : This is nominal gross national income. In our calculation that is the denominator. The numerator is the aid numbers that you have and then the—

Senator WONG: The 2.5?

Mr Wood : Then there is the GNI percentage.

Senator WONG: So these are simply what Treasury assumes is GNI in nominal terms over the forward estimates?

Mr Wood : Yes.

Senator WONG: Is there a linear percentage increase assumed over the forward estimates?

Mr Wood : No. It is not a precise amount, no.

Senator WONG: That is useful. Thank you.

CHAIR: Senator Fawcett, do you have questions on the same area as G'Day?

Senator FAWCETT: Yes. I just wanted to go to the question on notice that Senator Wong put on asking for some costings going back to 2013. I notice the program is 14 years old and that is probably a bit unreasonable to request but perhaps you can go back five years. Can you give us figures from 2012 rather than just 2013?

Ms Adamson : Yes, certainly.

Senator FAWCETT: That would be useful. Am I correct that industry pay sponsorship as part of funding the activity?

Ms Adamson : Yes, that is correct. In fact, I will just find it. Industry, whether it is companies, academia and others, pay around 80 per cent of the actual costs.

Senator FAWCETT: So clearly industry see value in it if they are prepared to stump up the vast majority of the cost. How many companies, bodies or agencies from Australia have gone? I do not know if you want to take that on notice in terms of breaking down numbers of how many Australian companies, how many American companies and people have visited and benefited from it?

Ms Adamson : I would have to take that question on notice for the detail. I can give you some of the names as an example. So major Australian companies supporting G'Day USA—that is providing sponsorship, support, in-kind contributions and so on—include Qantas, Thomas Foods International, Westfield, a2 Milk Company, News Corp, Village Roadshow and the Commonwealth Bank. There is a lot more but these are some of the major ones. There are US companies such as Netflix, Dow, Northrop Grumman, American Airlines, Warner Bros and Disney. Again, that is not a complete list. We can get you a complete if you want it but there are many companies. Those are the ones that are sponsors and major partners. There will, of course, be many others who participate in the various events that take place throughout the year.

Senator FAWCETT: So those major sponsors would be responsible for that 80 per cent, roughly, of the funding of it?

Ms Adamson : Yes.

Mr McDonald : Just before we go on, we have an answer to the question that Senator Moore or Senator Singh asked about the hosting and attending the conference. It is hosted by the Deputy Prime Minister and the Minister for Development of Cooperation of Belgium. It is co-organised with the Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation of the Netherlands, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for International Development Cooperation and Climate of Sweden and Minister for Development and Cooperation of Denmark.

CHAIR: Senator Wong for five minutes and then I am going to Senator Hanson-Young.

Senator WONG: We will come back later to G'Day USA. Now, the Human Rights Council bid; I understand that the opening of the Human Rights Council on Monday was attended by Senator Fierravanti-Wells.

Dr Strahan : Yes, that is correct.

Senator WONG: I understand the Prime Minister was invited.

Dr Strahan : Ministers are not invited. It is up to every country to determine who will represent them.

Senator WONG: Can you explain to me why the decision was made for the senior minister not to attend given the importance of Australia's bid?

Ms Adamson : It was simply that this week is a sitting week and it was thought that the foreign minister needed to be here in the House of Representatives. As you say, it was a very important event, including for our candidacy. We needed to be represented by someone who is very familiar with the subject matter, as is Senator Fierravanti-Wells, because she regularly engages with a wide range of counterparts, including in the South Pacific, and she was able to go.

Senator WONG: I understand that but generally with bipartisan support the opposition has understood the importance of Ms Bishop attending these sorts of international events, so why was not a pair sought for her to attend.

Senator Brandis: Ms Bishop took the view, which I share, that her first obligation was to be in parliament.

Senator WONG: So she did not seek a pair?

Senator Brandis: I do not know. Whether she did or not, her view was her paramount obligation was to be in parliament. I am sure she would have been criticised had she sought not to be.

Senator FAWCETT: Are you aware of where a pair was ever not honoured by the opposition?

Senator Brandis: I do not know. I think I can find out for you between now and 6 o'clock, so I will endeavour to do so.

Senator WONG: I can indicate I have spoken to our team on that side and there was no request received by the opposition of which the Labor team in the House of Representatives are aware for a pair.

Senator Brandis: That is not the question Senator Fawcett asked me, of course. Senator Fawcett, I will endeavour to make inquiries and come back to you.

Senator WONG: I cannot recall whether Senator Singh or Senator Moore talked about the voluntary pledging process. Has that been covered? As part of the bid for the council position we go through a pledging process; is that correct?

Dr Strahan : Yes, that is correct.

Senator WONG: Can you give me an update on where that process is at?

Dr Strahan : Certainly. At the beginning of our bid we announced that our five pledges would concern gender equality, Indigenous rights, freedom of expression, good governance and independent national human rights institutions. The next step is that by June in New York we will formally lodge those pledges where we can fill them out somewhat. There is a campaign brochure which we have translated into several languages and which sets out the five pillars with some supporting text.

Senator WONG: Will the pledges be made public prior to June?

Dr Strahan : The five pledges have been public.

Senator WONG: The detail of them; let us get the nomenclature right. What do you call the next bit? So you have done the five pledges.

Dr Strahan : The next stage is the formal lodgement of our pledges in New York and they will become public at that point.

Senator WONG: What is the process within government to finalise those?

Dr Strahan : We have followed several processes. One is we believe it is very important to work closely with civil society. So during our national human rights consultations about a month ago we consulted a wide range of civil society groups about the content of our pledges and asked for feedback. We have received some feedback, which we are considering. Some groups made some very good suggestions. Secondly, we have worked very closely with our colleagues and other agencies to make sure that the pledges which we have accurately capture everything that we are doing.

Senator WONG: So we will not be able to talk about them at the next estimates because it is prior to the public lodgement of them; is that right?

Dr Strahan : Yes.

Senator WONG: Do you have a budget for this?

Dr Strahan : A budget for the campaign?

Senator WONG: Yes.

Dr Strahan : We have a budget which is divided up into several components. One component covers the supporting material such as the campaign brochure that I mentioned and the other component covers the travel for Mr Ruddock.

Senator WONG: How much is the budget for supporting materials? How much are both budgets?

Dr Strahan : I can give you the exact figure.

Senator WONG: Can you disaggregate, too, between those two bits?

Dr Strahan : Yes, I will.

CHAIR: Can I stop you there, Mr Strahan.

Senator WONG: He wants to stop.

CHAIR: Can I ask that you come back to that because I now want to go to Senator Hanson-Young. Thank you, Senator Wong.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: My questions are in relation to Papua New Guinea and the PNG LNG project. I am not sure if you need to swap personnel.

Mr Sloper : I apologise. I was just out of the room. Would you mind repeating your question?

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: I wanted to touch on the issues of the recent unrest in Papua New Guinea in relation to the PNG LNG project. Firstly, I would like to get on the record the level of the department's awareness of the unrest in relation to the Hela Province in PNG and its connection to that project.

Mr Sloper : The Hela Province has experienced considerable violence, to be perfectly frank, in the last few weeks and that has extended to some concerns by different landowner groups about the project and the revenue streams they may be receiving, but I think it is fair to say some of the conflict relates to a whole range of other issues as well as that. There have been skirmishes between different groups. I think our travel advice reflects the need for caution in that area. We continue to monitor it but, of course, the PNG government itself is responsible for responding to that situation.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: I take from that that there is at least some acceptance by the department that part of this conflict in the region is associated with the landholder frustration in relation to the project. Is that fair?

Mr Sloper : I think it is fair to say certain groups have claimed that the basis for the violence is due to those reasons.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Including discontent about the royalties associated with the project?

Mr Sloper : Some groups have claimed that that is the basis for the conflict.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: During the period of analysis and approval of this project and the money that the Australian government spent in helping to establish it, what advice did the Department of Foreign Affairs give in relation to the unstable nature of that region?

Mr Sloper : I would have to take that on notice. With any business venture approach by individual companies we speak to the situation at the moment as it is on the ground, but that would be expressed in public documents such as the consular advice. With business we would talk about the risks involved in any particular market or the advantages that might be there.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Just so that it is clearly on the record, can you give us the figures for how much the Australian government invested in the PNG LNG project?

Mr Sloper : I would have to take that on notice to what extent we provided any money at all towards that project. I can come back to you. I will see if we can do that by this afternoon.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: My understanding is that it was a loan of approximately US$500 million or US$350 million but if you could correct that.

Mr Sloper : My understanding is that there is a loan but I am not sure of the quantum of that.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: It would be very helpful if you could take that on notice and get back to us this afternoon. I would like to know what official documentation existed in relation to warnings or analysis of the situation prior to that loan being approved. If you need to take that on notice in terms of something that you can table, I am happy for you to do that.

Mr Sloper : I think the loan that we are talking about is probably an EFIC loan.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Yes. I am sorry. Please continue.

Mr Sloper : I was about to say that the details of the transaction would need to be responded to by EFIC itself, but we can look to whether there was any specific advice that we provided to EFIC or to the companies involved. I would make the point that whatever advice we provide any company on commercial transactions in the Pacific, the area for which I am responsible, would be consistent with public advice, expressly the consular advice or other forms on the web that we maintain.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Could you take on notice any specific advice that your department made?

Mr Sloper : Certainly. I think it is fair to say that there would be regular consultations between Exxon and other companies operating in Papua New Guinea and the Papua New Guinea government about these sorts of concerns, royalty flows and so on, because they relate directly to PNG legislation.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Are you aware of how many people have been killed in recent months in relation to this conflict?

Mr Sloper : I do not have those specific figures with me.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: The ABC reports that it is in the vicinity of dozens of people dead. Do you think those reports would be accurate or would you prefer to take that on notice?

Mr Sloper : I would need to take on notice the specific figures, but it would not be unusual for the figures to be in tens. I would note, in that context, as you would probably be aware, unfortunately there is a large number of deaths due to violence in the Highlands of Papua New Guinea each year. It is well beyond the tens; in fact, it is in the hundreds.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: I accept that, and it is not something that we should ever turn a blind eye to, but I am specifically interested in the impact that this project has made and the influence that it has had in creating another flashpoint, dare I say, for conflict and violence.

Mr Sloper : If I may, I will come back to you with information on that. It is worth noting, also, the positive benefits arising from this project. The landowners concerned were part of the consultation when Exxon rolled out the implementation and construction of that project, so many of them would see themselves as partners in regard to that, but I accept the point that you are making.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Yes. It seems hard to want to try and make a trade-off between pros and cons when dozens of people are being killed as a result.

Mr Sloper : I am sure that the people involved are not looking for those deaths immediately and in any terms they are part of the process that led to the construction of those gas lines because they saw immediate benefits coming out of that. We hope those benefits continue, in the long-term, to benefit the communities both locally as well as the national government, which will obtain royalties for the project.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: What is your understanding of the current situation in relation to the project? There are reports that it is absolutely dysfunctional at the moment.

Mr Sloper : I have not heard reports of its dysfunction. I think gas is flowing and regularly being exported.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Are you aware that the PNG government has had to deploy troops and police to stop gun violence at the project itself?

Mr Sloper : I am aware that the Papua New Guinea government has deployed police to stop violence in the Hela Province. I do not think that is specific to the particular Exxon sites. That is actually through the province.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Are you aware that there are police guarding the project?

Mr Sloper : I am not aware of that particular circumstance at present. It has happened in the past. It could be the circumstance now.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: A number of the concerns raised by independent experts and organisations prior to this project being given a loan from Australia back in 2009 went directly to this issue of social unrest and the potential for this project to be a flashpoint for violence in the region. In compiling advice before a project like this is given a tick of approval, does the department compile or assess any independent concerns or expert advice outside the department?

Mr Sloper : This is probably a question for EFIC in terms of its risk management decision making processes. If requested, we might provide advice on a particular project, but we do not routinely do that without a request.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Could you take on notice as to whether there was any request for advice, specifically from your department, to either of the responsible ministers in relation to the impact on social cohesion and unrest; that is, specifically to this project?

Mr Sloper : Can I just confirm that your question is whether we were asked by our portfolio ministers for advice on social cohesion?

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Yes.

Mr Sloper : We will take that on notice.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Specific to this project.

Mr Sloper : I understand.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Are you able to give me a sense of what the department's view is of the economic benefits that may have come to Australia as a result of us lending the half a billion dollars for this project?

Mr Sloper : To be frank, we have not done an assessment of the financial benefit to Australia from the impact of that loan. I would need to check with EFIC on the state of its repayment. The project's success is definitely delivering benefits to the Papua New Guinea government but I have not looked at it in terms of the loan itself.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: PNG is obviously facing an incredible economic crisis to date, right down to the point of reports only in the last few days that the government departments and the parliament were not even able to pay their power bills; that their own government departments were without power because they could not cover their outstanding debts. How much of the current situation is a direct result of PNG's natural resource dependency in what is continuing to be a fluctuating market?

Mr Sloper : It is fair to say that Papua New Guinea is experiencing some significant economic fiscal challenges at the moment. Part of that is due to the drop in price of gas and how that revenue flows through to the government's coffers, but there are many other factors there, including that it has still got a limited formal economy. It is an APEC economy. It has significant prospects ahead and has experienced real growth in recent years so, yes, there are real challenges at present and that is impacting on delivery of government services and budgets. We should not shy away from that. There is still strong potential there for economic growth and that is reflected in our commercial links.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: What level of concern does the current financial crisis for PNG, together with the increased level of violence and social unrest, have for DFAT and at what point does that spark a conversation that we have to have here in Australia about what we can do to help?

Mr Sloper : I will make a few points if I might. Firstly, we are in regular consultation with our Papua New Guinea counterparts about the economic situation but we recognise as a sovereign government it is the decision and responsibility of that government to address those issues. We talk about policy options and alternatives, if you like. That is done at officials level and sometimes at ministerial level. We talk to the business community, both the Australian business community and the Papua New Guinea business community, about the impacts of the current situation and how they may be addressed and where we have an appropriate role to play, but it is in support of the Papua New Guinea government addressing those challenges that it faces.

Ms Adamson : If I could just add I was visiting Papua New Guinea last week for talks with my counterparts. While I was there I also visited a number of Australian aid programs and spoke to business people, both Australian business people and PNG business people, and met secretaries across the board. My overall sense was that they were very mindful of the current difficulties and doing their best. As Mr Sloper said, it is important that they make the decisions for themselves about how to ration scarce foreign exchange and how to cope with the downturn in the growth rate, but beyond the next year or two there was a degree of optimism about Papua New Guinea's prospects, whether in the resources area or more broadly. And, of course, our aid program is very much geared to assisting them to be able to build capacity to develop their own population, including in education and through some of the health measures that I know you are very mindful of, through the Pacific leadership and governance precinct and a range of other measures. As you know, our aid program there is very significant and longstanding.

CHAIR: Thank you. That is a good spot for us to pause for afternoon tea. We will resume at 3.45 and Senator Siewert will be asking questions. Thank you.

Proceedings suspended from 15:30 to 15:45

CHAIR: Senator Siewert.

Senator SIEWERT: I would like to ask about issues around diplomatic immunity for the Vatican. First off, could you quickly take us through what that means, confirm that the Vatican has diplomatic immunity and precisely what that means. Is it the usual understanding of diplomatic immunity?

Ms Adamson : My apologies. If I could refine the question. Does this relate to missions here in Australia and their diplomatic immunity under the Vienna Convention or does it relate to a broader question not related to missions here in Canberra?

Senator SIEWERT: In fact it relates to both around the broader issue of diplomatic immunity. I have a series of questions once you can confirm that.

Ms Adamson : I am just trying to work out whether it should be our senior legal adviser or our chief of protocol, but it may be that we could ask both of them to come to the table.

Senator SIEWERT: I think by the time I am finished—

Ms Adamson : Then we should be able to answer your questions.

Senator SIEWERT: Yes. I apologise if I ask questions that are bleeding obvious to those that are au fait with the intricacies of diplomatic immunity. Could you outline, very quickly, what that means in the case of the Vatican in terms of both access to materials that, for example, the royal commission might want to get hold of but also the broader issue around extradition treaties and the protections that are offered to people in the Vatican for their general protection?

Ms Adamson : Please do not ever apologise for asking a question. We are here to answer them. I will ask my colleague, Ms Hand, who heads the Europe division. Of course the Holy See, the Vatican, is in Europe so Ms Hand can answer the geographic specific. We have the legal adviser who can answer questions about immunity and the chief of protocol if there is anything relevant to what happens here in Canberra.

Senator SIEWERT: Thank you. My understanding is that diplomatic immunity offers, therefore, the Vatican the same protections that are available for any other country that we have protocols with or that we have offered that to. Is that correct?

Ms Cooper : I am wondering if you could repeat the question. Are you referring to representation here in Canberra or are you referring to activities in the Vatican? I just want to get my head around precisely the question.

Senator SIEWERT: Maybe I should ask what I am specifically after. I was trying to get a brief understanding but maybe I should just launch in and ask specifically what I am after. That might help my broad understanding.

Ms Cooper : Yes, by all means.

Senator SIEWERT: Can I confirm that if senior clergy are currently in the Vatican there is no extradition treaty between us and them in order to be able to get some of the senior clergy home or back to Australia?

Ms Cooper : Diplomatic immunity under the Vienna Convention applies to diplomats, so people accredited to countries as diplomats, whether in Australia, of course, or whether in any other country. I think the question, if I understand correctly what you are asking, does not relate to diplomatic immunity but the question is about whether an Australian overseas can be brought back to Australia. Now, if that person is not accredited as a diplomat then they do not have diplomatic immunity. If there is a matter over which an Australian needs to be brought back to Australia for criminal offences or charged with anything relating to the law then it is possibly a mutual assistance or extradition issue. Both of those matters are handled by the Attorney-General's Department.

Senator SIEWERT: Are they?

Ms Cooper : Yes.

Senator SIEWERT: If somebody is accredited as a diplomat, so in this instance if someone from the clergy was accredited as a diplomat they would be protected under diplomatic immunity; is that correct?

Ms Cooper : Under the Vienna Convention diplomats have immunity. That does not mean that they do not have to comply with the laws of the country to which they are accredited. So our diplomats overseas are obliged to comply with the law of the country, but if they are called to face proceedings in a court then they have immunity. That immunity can only be waived by the foreign minister, so it is inherent in your functions as a diplomat overseas.

Senator SIEWERT: Are you saying that it can only be waived by their foreign minister?

Ms Cooper : Just in the case of Australia, just to explain how diplomatic immunity works, if an Australian diplomat were summoned to appear in a foreign court then that diplomatic immunity could be waived but normally that diplomat would have immunity from prosecution.

Senator SIEWERT: I appreciate what you are saying about the Attorney-General's. I asked where I should ask and was told here. That was probably my fault that I was not clear enough, so I will need to put some questions on notice, I am presuming it is with the Attorney-General, but there are some further questions that are appropriate for here. I think it is probably appropriate that I ask whether there has been any consideration by the department about the clergy that have currently been named in the royal commission and any involvement in the necessity to try and ensure that they come back to Australia if required?

Ms Cooper : I am sorry that I did not hear the whole of that question. Were you asking about Australian clergy coming back to Australia?

Senator SIEWERT: Yes.

Ms Cooper : That would go to mutual assistance or extradition, depending on the nature of the issue.

Senator SIEWERT: What I am asking is whether there has been any discussion with the department about that possibility?

Ms Cooper : As I said, that would be a question for the Attorney-General's Department.

Senator SIEWERT: I understand what you are saying but has there been any with you? Obviously this falls between. I understand what you are saying about the Attorney-General's but is it also surely an issue for your department. Has there been any discussion?

Ms Cooper : Not with me, no.

Senator SIEWERT: With the department?

Ms Hand : Not that I am aware of. I assume you are talking about the Holy See here; is that right?

Senator SIEWERT: Yes.

Ms Hand : No.

Senator SIEWERT: Has there been any discussion around the issues of diplomatic immunity for the Holy See? Is it better if I call it the Holy See?

Ms Hand : The Holy See, yes.

Senator SIEWERT: Yes, for the Holy See.

Ms Hand : No.

Senator SIEWERT: Nothing?

Ms Hand : Not with us, no.

Senator SIEWERT: I will raise that with the Attorney-General's. My understanding is that the relationship and diplomatic immunity was established in 1973 for the Holy See. That is correct, is it not? Is it highly unusual that we have diplomatic relations and grant them diplomatic immunity to the Holy See?

Senator Brandis: What do you mean?

Senator SIEWERT: They are a state that at the moment is based on a religious—

Ms Adamson : It is not unusual. There is a very large number of countries which have diplomatic relations with the Vatican. Obviously there are some which would not and which do not, but Australia is in a comfortable majority I think.

Ms Hand : If I could add to that. It is 181 countries that are accredited to the Holy See.

Senator SIEWERT: Does Cardinal Pell have diplomatic status with the Holy See?

Ms Hand : We would have to take that on notice. I am not aware of where Cardinal Pell stands in terms of diplomatic immunity in the Vatican, but we could look into it.

Senator SIEWERT: I am sorry, I missed your last answer.

Senator Brandis: I saw Cardinal Pell when I was in Rome a couple of years ago. He is a senior member of the church hierarchy. He is one of the most senior members of the church hierarchy. I hope it is not too loose a metaphor but he is somewhat similar to a member of the cabinet of the Holy See. I think his title is Prefect for the Economy; in other words, effectively the treasurer. That does not make him a diplomat. That does not give him, as far as I am aware certainly by Australian law, diplomatic immunity. There is no respect in which Cardinal Pell occupies an office in the Vatican as a representative of Australia.

Senator SIEWERT: Could you say that again.

Senator Brandis: There is no respect in which Cardinal Pell occupies an office in the Vatican as a representative of Australia. He is not an Australian representative to the Vatican, in other words, whether clerical or secular.

Senator SIEWERT: Does he have that protection or not?

Ms Hand : We do not know the answer.

Senator Brandis: That would depend on the law of Vatican City.

Senator SIEWERT: Would any other clergy have that protection?

Senator Brandis: As I said, it depends on the law of Vatican City, but from an Australian point of view the Australians to whom the Vienna Convention applies are our diplomatic representatives. There is an ambassador. It is quite a small embassy. Other than the locally engaged staff, there would be other Australian officers.

Ms Adamson : I think there are one or two others.

Senator Brandis: There are just two others, I am told, to whom the Vienna Convention would apply. They are DFAT officers who staff the Australian embassy in Vatican City.

Senator SIEWERT: Do we have an extradition relationship with the Vatican?

Senator Brandis: I would need to check that for you.

Senator SIEWERT: Do any of your officers know?

Ms Adamson : That is a matter for the Attorney-General.

Senator Brandis: I am actually just having that checked. I am advised we do not.

Senator SIEWERT: We do not. Thank you.

CHAIR: Senator Wong.

Senator WONG: I will try to be efficient because I know there are a number of senators seeking the call. I would like to return to G'DAY USA and the business week issue. There is one question that I neglected to get to in relation to the Prime Minister Abe visit. The Prime Minister tweeted a photo from his dinner with Prime Minister Abe which said, 'Our close relationship with Japan is as a result of many hands and many generations', and it includes a picture of himself and Mrs Turnbull, Prime Minister Abe and his wife and Mr and Mrs Howard. Can you, on notice, tell me who determined the invitation list for that?

Ms Adamson : I can advise that the invitation lists for occasions such as the one to which you refer are determined by the Ceremonial and Hospitality Branch of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet.

Senator WONG: Given Mr Abbott's interest and certainly his public statements about the nature of the relationship, can you tell me why Mr Abbott was not invited?

Ms Adamson : That would be a question for the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet.

Senator WONG: You do not have your card?

Mr Barty : I do not.

Senator WONG: That is fine. I think we spoke on a previous occasion. Are you able to give me, firstly, the final costs of the inaugural Australia United States Business Week?

Mr Barty : I do not have my folder with me, but I can give you those costs.

Senator WONG: Australia United States Business Week.

Mr Barty : Last year; 2016?

Senator WONG: There has been only one?

Mr Barty : Yes, there has.

Senator WONG: And now it is cancelled?

Mr Barty : No. We run business weeks internationally in four markets—in Indonesia, India, China and the US.

Senator WONG: No, the Australia United States Business Week.

Mr Barty : We run it every two years.

Senator WONG: You are running it every two years?

Mr Barty : We ran one last year.

Senator WONG: Was that the inaugural one?

Mr Barty : That was the inaugural one.

Senator WONG: Is it continuing?

Mr Barty : We conducted our events jointly in running the G'DAY activities this year and it is programmed for next year.

Senator WONG: Were they separate events last year?

Mr Barty : They were separate events last year.

Senator WONG: So they are joint events this year?

Mr Barty : They are joint events this year.

Senator WONG: So why was the decision made to make them joint events?

Mr Barty : We are not conducting an Australian Business Week activity in 2017 so a decision was made that we would join the G'DAY events, not just for the January activities but also over the year. We just conducted a cybersecurity mission to San Francisco, for example.

Senator WONG: Are you able to give me, on notice, a copy of the program for last year's and a copy of the program for this year's?

Mr Barty : Yes, on notice.

Senator WONG: How much did it cost last year?

Ms Adamson : Is this for the business week?

Senator WONG: The business week.

Mr Barty : I have the number. It is $945,000.

Senator WONG: Can you give me that disaggregated on notice?

Mr Barty : Yes.

Senator WONG: Is that venue, hire, catering and so forth?

Mr Barty : Yes.

Senator WONG: Where was that held?

Mr Barty : That was held across a number of cities.

Senator WONG: Can you give me which ones they were?

Mr Barty : San Francisco, Chicago, Boston, New York, Los Angeles and Houston.

Senator WONG: Where was it held this year in the US?

Mr Barty : New York, Austin in Texas and Los Angeles.

Senator WONG: But they were essentially under the auspices of G'DAY USA?

Mr Barty : Yes.

Senator WONG: Can you explain to me why it was so important to have them as a separate event last year and this year it is fine to have them as a single event as part of the G'DAY USA event?

Mr Barty : As I mentioned, they are every two years. The separate event was because it was intended to be a significant and comprehensive event with a number of delegates and going into deep business detail with a number of appropriate customers in the US market.

Senator WONG: But you did not do that this year?

Mr Barty : Not to the same depth, no.

Senator WONG: Will you do it next year?

Mr Barty : That will be a matter for government.

Senator WONG: Is it not true that the reason there were two events was that Mr Robb and Ms Bishop both wanted their own event?

Mr Barty : I do not know.

Senator WONG: Secretary?

Ms Adamson : I was not secretary at the time but I understand, given the importance of our relationship with the United States, there was always more than enough to support the full interest of two ministers widely engaged with companies and in support of public diplomacy and business interests.

Senator WONG: But you had two different events which cost more.

Ms Adamson : That is not unusual.

Senator WONG: It cost more. If you think G'DAY USA is a good idea then the architecture that has been described this afternoon makes some sense. It does not make sense to have an entirely different event headed by a different minister. Anyway, you will take that on notice. I am putting that to you. You can do with it what you wish.

Senator Brandis: What are you putting on notice? You have made an observation.

Senator WONG: No, I am asking you to respond to that. Is not the real reason why there were two different events last year that both Ms Bishop and Mr Robb wanted separate events? Will you give me the disaggregated costs on notice?

Mr Barty : Yes.

Senator WONG: Thank you, Mr Barty, I am finished with all of that. Dr Strahan, you said to me before we broke that there were two components to the budget supporting materials and travel for Mr Ruddock. I did not finish writing that down but I think that is who it was. Yes?

Dr Strahan : Yes.

Senator WONG: You were going to give me the costs for both of those components or the budget for both of those.

Dr Strahan : The first component is what we call the public diplomacy campaign associated with the bid. So far we have spent $215,132.75 on that campaign. That includes things such as the brochures I mentioned, which have been translated into a number of different languages, a number of promotional materials such as notebooks and mugs, pop-up banners and the usual kinds of things that you do with a campaign. In addition to that expenditure we have spent $45,000 on a Bangarra performance in Geneva this week, on 28 February. Then on the costs for Mr Ruddock, the number I will give you includes all of his travel costs, his salary plus the costs of the accompanying official. To date that is a figure of $208,675.64, so that brings the total at present to under $500,000. That is spread over two financial years and it comes from existing departmental resources. There has been no allocation of additional money.

Senator WONG: I assume there has been an internal allocation.

Dr Strahan : Yes.

Senator WONG: What is the internal allocation? Five hundred thousand is the actual expenditure.

Dr Strahan : We have some unspent money to fund Mr Ruddock's further travel this year. I do not have that number in front of me.

Senator WONG: Can you give me that on notice?

Dr Strahan : I can.

Senator WONG: I am just trying to get a sense of what is budgeted for it. So what are the notebooks?

Dr Strahan : I could just note that by contrast our UNSC campaign cost us $23.59 million.

Senator WONG: Are you suggesting it was not money well spent?

Dr Strahan : No. I am a great believer in the UN. I am very glad we got onto the UNSC. I am a great believer in the Human Rights Council. I would be very pleased if we got on that as well.

Senator WONG: What were the notebooks?

Dr Strahan : It is what we also use during the campaign. I often have one with me but I do not at present.

Mr McDonald : I just happen to have one.

Senator WONG: He can do that. Thank you for that.

Dr Strahan : Can I just say that those notebooks are distributed all around the world and there is nothing better for us to be in an international meeting and see a delegation of another country using our notebooks. They are actually being used and the message is getting home.

Senator WONG: They are hot property.

Senator Brandis: They are very highly prized.

Senator BACK: They have a kangaroo on them.

Senator Brandis: They have a kangaroo on them. I have seen one. It is as attractive as these things can be.

Senator WONG: I am sure they help.

Dr Strahan : They do.

Senator WONG: Can you tell me how much internally is allocated, over whatever period of time, for those two components of the budget—I assume up until the bid is determined—and if you could disaggregate what you have given me.

Dr Strahan : Certainly.

Senator WONG: That is on notice. What role did the Department of Foreign Affairs play, if any, in procuring tickets for the President's inauguration obtained by Senator Roberts?

Ms Adamson : The procurement of tickets was a matter for the Australian embassy in Washington.

Senator WONG: Unless you want me to start asking Mr Hockey to come back for estimates, I am obliged to ask you these questions so I would appreciate—

Ms Adamson : By all means.

Senator WONG: Can someone help me?

Ms Adamson : You asked, and I said the Australian embassy in Washington.

Senator WONG: I am going to ask questions about the sequence and what occurred so can someone assist?

Ms Adamson : I can assist you up to a point and it may be if I require assistance I will ask Ms Heckscher.

Senator WONG: Just tell me what the sequence of events was.

Ms Adamson : The sequence of events was obviously that the tickets for the inauguration are in quite some demand in Washington. For any significant event tickets are often in demand. I think the embassy in Washington received quite a number of requests from Australians who were hopeful of being able to attend the event.

Senator WONG: Did they receive any others, other than the one that is in the media which is from Senator Roberts, from any other Australian parliamentarians?

Ms Adamson : Ms Heckscher feels she can help with this.

Ms Heckscher : I understand that the answer is yes. I do not have the list but I understand that there were inquiries made of the embassy as to what the process was for getting hold of tickets.

Senator WONG: From parliamentarians?

Ms Heckscher : Including from parliamentarians. I do not have a list of who they are but I gather that there were some, other than the one in the media.

Senator WONG: Then what happened?

Ms Heckscher : I understand that the embassy provided general advice to anyone who asked—whether parliamentarians, business or otherwise—as to the arrangements. The arrangements were that unless you were specifically invited then there were general admission tickets allocated to US senators and members of Congress and they could use those at their discretion. That was what the arrangements were and that was the advice that was given to anyone who inquired as to what were the arrangements for tickets.

Senator WONG: What role, if any, did DFAT have in relation to Senator Roberts's request after the general advice was provided?

Ms Heckscher : I understand that, having received a certain number of inquiries, having provided general advice about the process for getting hold of tickets, the embassy made inquiries as to whether or not there were general admission tickets available within contacts in Congress and Senate. I think that there are probably a number of tickets that are allocated that are unused so the embassy, being helpful as is the usual practice when there are particularly travelling parliamentarians, made inquiries as to whether there were any tickets available.

Senator WONG: Of members of Congress?

Ms Heckscher : Of members of Congress.

Senator WONG: Did they make those inquiries on behalf of anyone other than Senator Roberts?

Ms Heckscher : Insofar as I understand it, no.

Senator WONG: Why was particular priority accorded to Senator Roberts, given that you have indicated to me more than one parliamentarian and I think a number of non-parliamentarians sought this?

Ms Heckscher : It was not a question of priority. From what I understand a number of people made inquiries, were given advice and then chose to let it go. Senator Roberts made a number of requests that we pursue whether there were tickets available.

Senator WONG: A number of requests. How did he make those requests? Was it via email or phone calls? I am just trying to get a sense.

Ms Heckscher : I may have to take that one on notice. I do not think that I have the detail about exactly how the requests were made.

Senator WONG: I would like to know how those requests were communicated. So he was the only Australian in respect of whom the embassy sought tickets from Congress for the inauguration?

Ms Heckscher : That is correct.

Senator Brandis: I do not think that is right.

Ms Heckscher : I think that is right.

Senator Brandis: I do not mean to be pedantic but I think the evidence was not the tickets were sought from Congress but that they were allocated to individual congressmen. Congress does not distribute tickets.

Senator WONG: I think everybody understood.

Senator Brandis: I think it is a material difference.

Senator WONG: Inquiries by the embassy as to tickets from congressmen or congresswomen or senators were not made in respect of the request by anyone other than Mr Roberts; correct?

Ms Heckscher : That is what I understand.

Senator WONG: How many tickets did he get?

Ms Heckscher : I understand that there were two tickets.

Senator WONG: Was the fact of his request discussed with the FMO prior to the approach to congressmen or congresswomen?

Ms Heckscher : I do not have that.

Ms Adamson : My understanding was that no approach was made. Just in relation to the previous exchange, I would like us to clarify. There was quite some interest in tickets. The embassy asked around, 'Does anyone have any unallocated and spare?' What I do not know but we will check is whether that was made explicitly on Senator Roberts's behalf or whether they were saying, 'We've had a number of requests. We've had repeated requests for Senator Roberts.'

Senator WONG: The evidence from Ms Heckscher was basically others let it go but he did not. I am paraphrasing you. I am sorry, that was more blunt that your evidence.

Ms Adamson : And this is not inconsistent. What I am saying is there were repeated requests from him. We need to check whether they went to the offices of congressmen and women and saying, 'Do you have any spare tickets? We've got a senator who particularly wants them,' or did they do that in a general sense. You asked a particular question and I want to make sure that we give you the particulars.

Senator WONG: Also on notice the number of requests, how they were made by him, how they were communicated and whether there was any communication with the FMO or other ministerial officers within the government regarding his request. Did the embassy get any instructions about facilitating his request?

Ms Adamson : We will have to take that on notice. I think the answer is no, but let me take that on notice and we will come back to you with an informed reply.

Senator WONG: You did not get instructions or a request to facilitate that?

Ms Adamson : Normally these things would be handled at posts and left to their discretion.

Senator WONG: I agree, but I am asking if, at a political level, there was any indication to post that this was regarded as a priority and, if so, by whom?

Ms Adamson : I think the answer is no, but we will confirm.

CHAIR: Do you want to pause?

Senator WONG: I am nearly finished for this.

CHAIR: When you have I will pass to another colleague.

Senator WONG: There was an article on 18 February 2017 with a headline, 'Aussie Joe woos Don with ode to mateship', a film about mateship being pitched by Ambassador Hockey to Foxtel. I just want to know what role the ambassador is playing there and whether DFAT has any—

Senator Brandis: Do you mean a role in the process as opposed to a role in the film?

Senator WONG: I hope he is not playing a role in the film.

Mr Tranter : That report referred to a proposal around a documentary on the military history between the United States and Australia with particular reference to the Battle of Hamel, which has its 100th anniversary next year on 4 July. More broadly, the embassy in Washington is planning a program of events to mark the anniversary. Related to that idea is a concept for a documentary which the embassy has presented to media, including Foxtel, to try to generate interest in developing a project to run alongside the anniversary events next year.

Senator WONG: So where did this idea come from? Is this Mr Hockey's idea?

Mr Tranter : It is being led by the ambassador.

Senator WONG: That is a very good diplomat's answer, but whose idea was it?

Senator BACK: You would have to get inside his head.

Ms Adamson : There is a really active public diplomacy program run by the embassy in Washington.

Senator WONG: I just want to know who.

Ms Adamson : Many people may want to take credit for a good idea, so we should check who wants to take the most credit for this good idea.

Senator WONG: Is there a concept that has actually been approved by DFAT?

Mr Tranter : It is not a concept to approve. There is no formal project proposal. The idea was put to a production house to consider and I understand that they are looking at whether there is merit in developing the project.

Senator WONG: Who put the idea to the production house and how was that communicated.

Mr Tranter : The embassy put the idea to Foxtel in a meeting which is referenced in the media article. I do not have the reference in front of me but it was in early December, as I recall, in a conversation which involved the ambassador and public diplomacy staff with staff of Foxtel.

Senator WONG: Who pays for it in terms of the pitch?

Mr Tranter : There is no funding attached to the proposal. The department and the embassy have not made any financial commitments to the project.

Senator WONG: But the pitching of the idea, the concept—does that involve, were it to come to fruition, an expectation or a possibility that public funds would be used for this?

Mr Tranter : Not necessarily, given it is—

Senator WONG: Is there a possibility?

Mr Tranter : These projects have come to fruition in the past with a subsidy and without a subsidy. Very often they rely on cooperation with the Australian War Memorial to be able to access archives. These are the sorts of things that the department and the embassy can help to facilitate.

Senator WONG: But if there has not been a decision as to whether there would be a subsidy or not, is it essentially a kind of casual tender process; a direct approach?

Mr Tranter : No, it is not an exclusive arrangement. I understand that others have pitched the idea.

Senator WONG: Who else has pitched the idea?

Mr Tranter : I understand the Seven Network have also.

Senator WONG: By Mr Hockey as well?

Mr Tranter : And the embassy, yes.

Senator WONG: Is that it?

Mr Tranter : There may be others but we will take that on notice.

Senator WONG: Is it contemplated that any public funds are going to be used for this?

Mr Tranter : There are no commitments and no plan for public funds.

Senator WONG: Is it contemplated? The question was: is it contemplated?

Mr Tranter : No.

Senator WONG: No?

Mr Tranter : Not to my understanding.

Mr Tranter : Foxtel have not sought anything.

CHAIR: Senator Wong, can I ask you to pause there.

Senator WONG: Can I just ask one more thing really quickly?

CHAIR: In this same area?

Senator WONG: No, but I promise I will be really quick.

CHAIR: Do you?

Senator WONG: I promise.

CHAIR: Away you go.