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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 would like to welcome Senator the Hon. George Brandis QC, the Attorney-General, representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs; Ms Frances Adamson, the secretary; and officers of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. Attorney-General, would you like to make an opening statement?

Senator Brandis: No, thank you.

CHAIR: Ms Adamson, would you like to make an opening statement?

Ms Adamson : No, thank you.

Senator WONG: From the Labor Party's perspective, I understand you've broken with tradition in terms of timetabling. We're happy not to go to any trade matters until late afternoon at the earliest or probably after the dinner break. I don't know whether other senators have a different view.

CHAIR: Do you have any questions?

Senator WONG: I was asking if other senators—

CHAIR: I don't know if any senators, other than Labor Party senators, have questions for those officials.

Senator WONG: It's a great inconvenience to an entire part of the portfolio, which, traditionally, has been done later so that they don't have to sit here all day.

CHAIR: Under the standing order as it exists, any senator has a right to ask questions of any official.

Senator WONG: But we've generally been kind of cooperative about this in this committee. I'm indicating the opposition's perspective. We know that DFAT staff are busy. We are happy not to go to Trade until at least late afternoon.

CHAIR: Thank you.

Senator WONG: If you don't wish to facilitate such cooperation, that's a matter for you, Chair.

Senator Brandis: Can I suggest that officers of the Trade portfolio be told that they won't be needed before, at the earliest, the conclusion of the afternoon tea break at 3.45?

Senator WONG: We're happy with that.

CHAIR: Sure, Attorney-General. The secretariat will make sure all senators know that they can't ask questions of the Trade portfolio until that time.

Senator WONG: Firstly, can I go to North Korea, please? Not go there; go to the—

Senator Abetz: Stay there!

Senator WONG: That's very unkind, Senator! I'll start with question on notice 114, attachment 71. I asked some questions on the last occasion about the expansion of sanctions against North Korea. In particular, I want to go to paragraph (b)8, which includes Autonomous Sanctions (Classes of Sanctioned Vessels—Democratic People's Republic of Korea) Designation 2017. Can you tell me what the purpose of the sanction is—what that particular sanction is intended to achieve? Obviously there's the broader geopolitical intention, but what activity is being constrained there?

Mr Larsen : The purpose of that group of sanctions was to make sure that the government could ban any DPRK-flagged vessels whatsoever—

Senator WONG: From?

Mr Larsen : From entering an Australian port.

Senator WONG: Have more sanctions been put in place by Australia since February 2017?

Mr Larsen : Yes, they have. I will draw on my notes here. In July and August 2017, amendments expanding Australia's autonomous sanctions regime in respect of the DPRK entered into legal effect. They permit the Minister for Foreign Affairs to designate for targeted financial sanctions and/or declare for the purposes of a travel ban, a person or entity that the minister is satisfied has been associated with the DPRK's weapons of mass destruction program or missile program—previously, the criteria required that the Minister for Foreign Affairs be satisfied that the person or entity is associated with the DPRK's weapons of mass destruction program or missiles program—and, secondly, that the minister is satisfied is assisting or has assisted in the violation or evasion by the DPRK of certain United Nations Security Council resolutions that relate to the DPRK and subsequent resolutions relevant to those resolutions. The amendments also included provisions that establish each of the following as a service for the DPRK that is prohibited without a permit: the provision of any service to Air Koryo; the provision to any person or entity of any service that assists with, or is provided in relation to, an extractive or related industry in the DPRK; the provision to any personal of any service that assists with or is provided in relation to the creation, construction, installation, development, maintenance or decommissioning of infrastructure associated with an extractive or related industry in the DPRK; and the provision to a DPRK person or entity of any service that assists with or is provided in relation to an extractive or related industry outside the DPRK. Further, in—

Senator WONG: Are you able to table that?

Mr Larsen : Yes.

Senator WONG: That is the decision. Have any legislative instruments been prepared to give effect to that new tranche?

Mr Larsen : This new tranche is the subject of existing regulatory amendment—

Senator WONG: There's no further requirement to—

Mr Larsen : There is no further requirement in relation to those. There are some sanctions which are in train and, if you wished, I could identify those. They are in train, in terms of putting in place regulatory mechanisms.

Senator KITCHING: Mr Larsen, on the department website there's an instrument called Autonomous Sanctions (Classes of Sanctioned Vessels—Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) Designation 2017. That's in force?

Mr Larsen : Yes, it is.

Senator KITCHING: And it's been registered?

Mr Larsen : I believe so, yes.

Senator KITCHING: Are you able to confirm?

Mr Larsen : I will confirm that.

Senator KITCHING: When you're confirming, could you also confirm if it's appeared on the Federal Register of Legislation? Which would enable its—

Mr Larsen : I will confirm that.

Senator KITCHING: In terms of advice, have you provided advice to the Minister for Foreign Affairs on the effectiveness of the sanctions, including—I'll give you two classes of sanctions—sanctions impose by the international community pursuant to United Nations resolutions and sanctions imposed by Australia unilaterally?

Mr Larsen : As a legal matter, I haven't provided advice, but, as a policy matter, I believe the department has.

Senator KITCHING: Who would have—

Mr Fletcher : Australia is seeking to increase pressure on North Korea to persuade it to negotiate on denuclearisation. As part of that we thoroughly implement the UN sanctions and we have adopted our own autonomous sanctions.

Senator KITCHING: We have adopted—

Mr Fletcher : Yes, a series of measures through the course of the year.

Senator KITCHING: What have we done? What are they?

Mr Fletcher : They are the measures Mr Larsen was talking about, which were flagged for consultation in around February and they were introduced in around June, July, August.

Senator WONG: I want to go to the effectiveness of sanctions. Mr Fletcher, you've outlined what is a shared objective across not only politics but also the overwhelming majority of the international community. How do we go about assessing the effectiveness of sanctions? Is there a whole-of-government assessment?

How does the government assess, and what role does DFAT have in assessing, the effectiveness of sanctions, which is both an ex post task but also something one might do up-front prior to constructing the series of sanctions such as we were discussing with Mr Larsen?

Mr Fletcher : If you start by looking at it from a distance, you'd have to say that sanctions have not stopped North Korea's WMD programs. That said, sanctions are very much a work in progress. North Korea is objecting to and protesting at sanctions, and we think that is a sign that they are starting to bite. I can't predict at what point they will be effective in terms of bringing North Korea to the negotiating table, but that is our objective. The sanctions which have been introduced over the past two years have been beyond expectation in term of the UN's ability to get the international community to limit trade out of North Korea in terms of things that generate significant revenue for the regime, and significant inputs in terms of imports into North Korea are now subject to limitations or bans by the UN. If you'd asked me two years ago was that likely to happen, I would have said I would be doubtful. But the progress that North Korea has made in terms of its WMD programs has led to a much more spirited, united response from the international community.

Senator WONG: Agreed, but that wasn't really what I was asking.

Ms Adamson : Part of the efficacy, if you like, the effectiveness, of sanctions goes to the extent to which they are universally and rigorously applied by the international community.

Senator WONG: Sure.

Ms Adamson : One can look at it from a narrow perspective of Australia in our own right. One can also look at it in terms of what may in the past have been a lack of enthusiasm on the part of some members of the international community, some members of the United Nations, in enforcing sanctions. One can look at it from the point of view, as Mr Fletcher says, of an increased unity of purpose. One of the roles that Australia plays, and one of the ways in which we contribute to this effort, though, is by working with close partners, particularly partners in our region, to assist them to be able to enforce sanctions in a credible and effective way. So, beyond our own implementation, we have an active role in advocacy, if you like, but also closer to home in helping governments build capability in order to be able to implement sanctions effectively. We think—it's our assessment—that that process has become more comprehensive and more effective. The effectiveness of sanctions, the way we look at all of this, is, as your question implies, an important part of our approach to the North Korean threat.

Senator WONG: I agree with that. I suppose I was trying to get a sense of whether you have some sort of qualitative methodology. What would you do to ensure the most effective unilateral sanctions and what are the best ways in which Australia can work multilaterally to ensure the sanctions are more effective?

Ms Adamson : As part of a broad coalition on this issue, as I say, we work in an advocacy sense. Information about the effectiveness with which the sanctions are being implemented is part of that. Some of that is open source information about goods that flow or services that flow or visas, application of travel bans, those sorts of things. Some of it goes to things that are entirely visible and, as I'm sure you would expect, some of it goes to things that are not necessarily in the public domain.

Senator WONG: Okay. Can I go now to the open letter—which was passed on by, I think, the Indonesian embassy, from memory—to parliaments of different countries from the Foreign Affairs Committee of the DPRK?

Mr Fletcher : Yes.

Senator WONG: When was DFAT first aware of this letter?

Mr Fletcher : When it was referred to in the media. I don't have the exact date, but a couple of weeks ago.

Senator WONG: When it was released to the media?

Mr Fletcher : Yes.

Senator WONG: Right. So, it wasn't passed on to you first? It's described as an open letter. So it wasn't brought to your attention by other parties?

Mr Fletcher : That's correct. It was sent—we believe—directly from the North Korean embassy in Jakarta to the foreign minister's office.

Senator WONG: And the foreign minister's office—I think the date stamp on the document which was released is 3 October.

Mr Fletcher : Yes.

Senator WONG: But you're saying it was not passed on to you between that date and the letter being made public in the media. Is that correct?

Mr Fletcher : That's correct.

Senator WONG: It seems very unusual.

Mr Fletcher : The letter is unusual and the way it was sent to us was unusual; yes.

Senator WONG: Correct. But it seems unusual that the foreign minister's office would not pass on a letter from North Korea to the department.

Mr Fletcher : I don't know—normally, it would have been passed on. I think there must have been an oversight for it not to have been.

Senator WONG: Well, it can't have been much of an oversight because they put it into the media. Ms Adamson, would your evidence be the same as Mr Fletcher's? I'm not—that sounds much more pejorative than it's intended to be. Are you in the same position as Mr Fletcher, that you weren't aware that the letter was received?

Ms Adamson : The issue first came to my attention through the media, at which point I asked to see a copy of it. It came under cover, as I recall, of a diplomatic note: 'the Embassy of the Democratic Republic of North Korea presents its compliments to the Embassy of Australia'—this is in Jakarta—no; I now have the third-person note in front of me. It was straight to the parliament, I'm sorry, because it was an open letter. So it was presenting its compliments to the Parliament of Australia, rather than the normal means of transmission, which would be from an embassy to another embassy under cover of a diplomatic note, at which point we would have received it. But because, I presume, it was presenting its compliments to the parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia, and has the honour to inform the Foreign Affairs Committee, it came to my attention after it was referred to in the media. So it wasn't a communication between the embassy of the DPRK and our embassy in the way these things would normally be done.

Senator WONG: According to the article written—which I think was the way in which you found out about the letter—the minister released the letter to Fairfax Media on the Thursday, which I think might have been the day the results of the New Zealand election and the formation of its government were flagged. But, according to what the journalist has written—and obviously you didn't speak to the journalist; or DFAT didn't, because you didn't have the letter—it was sent via North Korea's embassy in Jakarta to our Indonesian post on 28 September. 'The letter was written by the powerful Foreign Affairs Committee of the DPRK, Supreme People's Assembly, and was sent via North Korea's embassy in Jakarta to Australia's Indonesian embassy on 28 September, and from there it made its way to Ms Bishop a week later.' Did the Jakarta post receive this?

Ms Adamson : I'm advised no, Senator. That is supported by the content of the note, because, normally, if it were sent to the embassy, it would be—I'm sorry to get involved in this diplomatic arcanery, in a way—

Senator WONG: No, I understand.

Ms Adamson : It would be sent from the embassy of the DPRK, they would present their compliments to the embassy of Australia, and that would have been the transmission. But the note—the diplomatic note—covering it is directly to the parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia, and my supposition was they chose to do that directly to the office of the Minister for Foreign Affairs.

Senator WONG: Who has chosen to release it to the media without passing on the correspondence to DFAT.

Ms Adamson : Well, I think this was done around the world. My sense was that this was sent to quite a number of different—

Senator WONG: Sure, yes, the open letter was, but the release to the Australian media was from the foreign minister's office, before you received the letter.

Ms Adamson : I don't have knowledge of that directly. I know we didn't receive it.

Senator WONG: It's what's reported. It is obviously not your personal knowledge. After DFAT became aware of this letter, via it having been released by Ms Bishop's office to the media, did anyone from DFAT engage with the foreign minister's office (1) to obtain a copy of the letter and (2) to ascertain why it has been released to the media?

Mr Fletcher : As soon as we found out that the letter existed, we took steps to find out where it had come from and how, and we spoke both to our embassy in Jakarta and to the foreign minister's office.

Senator WONG: What was the result of those conversations?

Mr Fletcher : The embassy in Jakarta said they had no record of receiving a letter. The office I don't think was able to confirm how it had been received. And so my assumption is it was received in the mail and was opened and then dealt with by staff without too much attention being paid to where it had come from. The normal assumption would be—and I think the secretary began by saying we think this—that it came through our embassy because that's how these notes are normally transmitted. But on this occasion it seems as though it came direct to the parliament, or direct to the foreign minister's office in the parliament. Now, it's possible it arrived in parliament somewhere and was opened and sent by them to the foreign minister's office. But I'm just guessing, really.

Senator WONG: And the office sits on it for a few weeks and then releases it on the day the New Zealand government is formed, without passing it on to you?

Senator KITCHING: Has the foreign minister ever released a letter this way before?

Mr Fletcher : I don't know.

Senator KITCHING: Ms Adamson?

Ms Adamson : I can't answer that question. I mean I don't have the knowledge to answer it.

Senator KITCHING: Perhaps I could come to it this way: usually, if there was a letter of this nature received, there would be discussion perhaps, or you would be notified by the foreign minister's office or by the foreign minister that they had received such a letter?

Ms Adamson : There's a great deal of correspondence, obviously, involved in the business that we do.

Senator WONG: Not from North Korea.

Ms Adamson : No, but in a general—

Senator WONG: Sure, but not North Korea. It's not usual for North Korea to write us a letter!

Ms Adamson : No, the question was a general question.

Senator WONG: Fair enough.

Ms Adamson : In fact, perhaps this is the point at which to say, with communications from the DPRK, it's not unusual for them to be unusual, because it's the way they operate, the nature of the business. And we communicate with them, typically, through embassies in Jakarta—at least, currently—and they clearly wanted to get to a broader audience, I think. It appears that way from the letter. But exactly how they transmitted it, we don't know. As Mr Fletcher said, it may have been gone to another part of the parliament first.

Senator KITCHING: But the release was, as you say, unusual?

Ms Adamson : No, I didn't say the release was unusual. I said the way the North Koreans communicate is typically a little unusual because we're not engaged with them as a close partner.

Senator ABETZ: And we don't hear from them that often!

Ms Adamson : Not that often, but—

Senator KITCHING: That's our point!

Senator WONG: That proves our point! He's on our side!

Ms Adamson : No, there are communications of various kinds—

Senator ABETZ: So there are no established protocols.

Ms Adamson : often, it has to be said, by fax machine rather than—

Senator ABETZ: Email.

Ms Adamson : and occasionally by post. So it is not as if there are long periods of radio silence. There are occasionally reasons to have contact, and Mr Fletcher can probably say more about that.

Senator WONG: I think that was a cue to you, Mr Fletcher, to say—

Ms Adamson : The normal means of communicating with an abnormal state.

Mr Fletcher : We seek to communicate with North Korea probably every month or two about one thing or another. Following their nuclear test on 3 September, we sent a number of notes to them through New York, Beijing and Jakarta to protest at what they'd just done, and we sought permission to visit from our embassy in Seoul, which was not granted.

Senator WONG: Yes.

Mr Fletcher : That was the last communication from our side to them.

Senator WONG: I've got a few questions here but I think I've got the answer. The decision to make the letter public was made in the foreign minister's office?

Ms Adamson : I think that's a question for the foreign minister's office.

Senator WONG: I will ask Senator Brandis, he can take on notice who decided to make that letter public?

Senator Brandis: Yes.

Senator WONG: I think this is clear: at no point has the department provided the minister advice on the merits of making the letter public?

Mr Fletcher : No. The letter was public before we found out about it.

Senator WONG: Have any other nations made this letter public?

Mr Fletcher : Not to my knowledge. I think New Zealand received the letter. That's the only other government that I know has received it.

Senator WONG: I assume you—because you are very good at this—have checked with people whether anybody else got it?

Mr Fletcher : No, we have not asked anyone overseas, really. I know that New Zealand received it. We haven't asked anyone else, to my knowledge.

Senator WONG: So the only way in which it's made public is the foreign minister's decision to release it to the media in Australia, to your knowledge?

Mr Fletcher : Yes.

Senator WONG: Have there been any reactions? Has the fact of it being made public been raised with DFAT other than in the interactions with the foreign minister's office that we've discussed?

Mr Fletcher : No.

Senator WONG: What are the merits of making this public?

Mr Fletcher : I think it's helpful for the Australian public to know what the North Korean regime thinks about us and the general situation.

Senator WONG: Have you been asked at any point to provide advice? I'm not asking what the advice is—I might ask that but you probably won't tell me—but I want to ask the fact of it first. Have you been asked to provide advice to the foreign minister about an assessment of the meaning of the letter? In other words, what can we draw from this letter about the state of mind of the DPRK?

Mr Fletcher : The letter demonstrates they're feeling more isolated and under pressure than previously and they are, I presume, trying to persuade us to change our policy.

Senator WONG: Have you provided advice to the foreign minister on the—

Mr Fletcher : No. I think it's self-evident what they're trying to do.

Senator WONG: So you haven't been asked by her office, 'Can you tell us what you think this shows us?'

Mr Fletcher : No.

Senator WONG: You haven't been asked to do that?

Mr Fletcher : No.

Senator WONG: So when the foreign minister provided public comment that 'this shows that economic sanctions on North Korea are working,' she obviously had not based that on any specific advice from DFAT?

Mr Fletcher : Not specifically in relation to this letter. But you recall that the foreign minister recently participated in the two-plus-two meetings in Seoul and, during the course of the briefing for those discussions and during the visit itself, we had a lot of contact about what we think is going on in North Korea, the effectiveness of sanctions and policy directions which the international community should take.

Senator WONG: Have you provided advice that confirms this shows that North Korea is 'feeling desperate, feeling isolated, trying to demonise the US, trying to divide the international community.'

Mr Fletcher : Yes, I know. I doubt that we have provided specific advice using those words, but that is certainly what we think, and the objective of our policy is to bring about that outcome.

Senator WONG: You've mentioned that the New Zealand government had received the letter as well?

Mr Fletcher : Yes.

Senator WONG: Do you know when they received it?

Mr Fletcher : No.

Senator WONG: And, I think, consistent with your previous advice, they haven't made it public?

Mr Fletcher : Not to my knowledge. I can take that on notice.

Ms Adamson : Or we can get back to you in the course of the day, if possible.

Senator WONG: Sure. Thank you. Chair, I've finished with that component. I'm happy to move to another subject, but there are other senators—

Senator ABETZ: If I might quickly follow up on this media story. I'm not sure what actual page it was of TheSydney Morning Herald, but it was the continuation of the page 1 story. It said:

I read this as showing that the collective strategy of allies and partners to impose maximum pressure and diplomatic and economic sanctions on North korea is working …

Aren't the Australian people entitled to know that, given that we have been at the forefront of sanctions and promoting sanctions, being concerned about this, that the minister should be assuring the Australian people that our approach in this area is actually working.

Mr Fletcher : Yes.

Senator ABETZ: Thank you.

Senator LAMBIE: Could I just follow up on that too, please, just quickly? On your assessment of the letter, what did you say?—they were feeling isolated and alone? I'm going to say this as nicely as possible, but are you a psychologist or a psychiatrist? Because that's not how I'm reading this letter. This says to me that they're telling us to go away in not-so-pleasant words. Your assessment of what they're saying and my assessment of what I'm reading in this thing here is not what I'm looking at. I haven't seen the full letter, obviously, but that's not how I'm reading it. If you want to nice it up and say that they're feeling isolated, I'd say this is a warning shot. Do you actually get anybody from intelligence or anything to come in and have a look at that letter and ask them to assess it, psychologically, on what they are trying to get through to us? Do you have an expert come in and go over that letter?

Mr Fletcher : We haven't subjected the letter to an analysis by psychologists or psychiatrists, but our view is that, given this letter came out of nowhere—we do not normally get letters like this—that this reflects a degree of pressure being applied in North Korea, which is what our policy seeks to do.

Senator LAMBIE: I guess what I'm asking you is, do you have an expert come in and assess that letter to tell us exactly what they're telling us, or are you second-guessing because you don't have that expertise? That's what I want to know. I haven't seen the letter in full, but from what I'm looking at it here, it's just telling us to piss off in no uncertain terms. That's how I'm looking at it.

Senator Brandis: Senator Lambie—

CHAIR: Senator, we might try and use parliamentary language.

Senator LAMBIE: Sorry, excuse my French—'go away'. I mean, there's no other way of putting it. I'm just trying to get to the bottom of it, Attorney. This is not something to play with. We don't want to be second-guessing these people, and it's a concern.

Senator Brandis: Senator Lambie—can I reply?

CHAIR: Yes, you can.

Senator Brandis: Thank you. Senator Lambie, the expertise of judging the intentions and policies and motives of other countries is part of the expertise that professional diplomats profess. Those who are specialists in particular in North Asia, like Mr Fletcher, are the very experts who have the expertise about which you inquire—that is, making a shrewd and well-informed judgement about the intentions of a foreign regime, on the basis of their vast experience.

Ms Adamson : Senator Lambie, could I perhaps also add that the expertise to which you referred is that expertise that does indeed reside in parts of government. So, while we make a professional diplomatic judgement about it, there are of course other parts of government, the parts to which I think you're referring, which do forensically look at these things and assist us to make judgements about the effect of sanctions. It's quite a difficult thing to do in the DPRK, obviously being such a closed society, but there are people who have specific expertise who look at the sorts of things that you're talking about.

Senator LAMBIE: I'm not asking about the sanctions and expertise. I'm asking an expert to go over the letter instead of second-guessing. I can say I'm a parliamentarian and we can all says we're experts, which is absolute rubbish. This is not our field of expertise.

Ms Adamson : I'm sorry for not having been clear enough, perhaps. You're referring to specific expertise—I'm not talking about sanctions here—

Senator LAMBIE: To assess the letter.

Ms Adamson : to assess the letter. While I'm saying that professional expertise, in a diplomatic sense, is something that we all carry with us, but I'm saying to you that there are other parts of government where the specific expertise to which you refer resides, and they do typically look at all sources of information, including this letter. So you are correct to say there are sources of expertise. What I'm saying to you is that there are people in government who are looking at this sort of thing and applying that expertise.

Senator LAMBIE: So I guess the question is that you had an expert look at this, an expert that went over the letter. Could you provide us with that expert's name on notice, please?

CHAIR: On notice, I think Senator Lambie asked if you could provide that.

Senator ABETZ: This is the first letter of this nature, as I understand it, that was received by the foreign minister. That is one aspect. But the other aspect is, I am assuming—it is always dangerous asking questions you don't know the answer to—but I am assuming the foreign minister is in regular dialogue with her counterparts about North Korea and there is a sharing of information and observations et cetera as to how the regime in North Korea is responding to the various public statements, sanctions, resolutions of the United Nations, et cetera.

Ms Adamson : Yes. In fact, when the foreign minister speaks publicly about the DPRK, she draws on a wide variety of information in doing that, including regular conversations with close counterparts and others. Naturally enough, being the sort of threat this is, it is high up on the agenda for any diplomatic interaction that we have. Departmental advice will be one input, but of course there are many others on which the foreign minister draws when she speaks both privately and publicly on this issue.

Senator ABETZ: So the foreign minister didn't receive this letter in a vacuum without any background or knowledge of the issues of North Korea. Having been three years in the job, she has some understanding of the issues relating to North Korea, and this was just part of the—I was about to say 'rich tapestry', but let's say the unfortunate tapestry that is North Korea and diplomatic relations with that country.

Ms Adamson : That's correct. I think it is just over four years that she has been in that position, with a number of years as shadow spokesperson from early 2009.

Senator ABETZ: Four years. Time flies when you're having fun.

Senator WONG: Can I go to the tragic events in Myanmar. I know a number of senators may have questions on this, including Senator Singh, who I advise, if her office is listening, that we are now doing that set of questions. Mr Green, perhaps we can start with an update. Are you able to provide us with an update on the human rights situation in the Rakhine State in Myanmar?

Mr Green : Yes, I can. As you know, Australia is deeply concerned about the events in Rakhine State and the mass displacement of Rohingya and other communities. Major security operations appear to have ceased, although there continue to be reports of arson, looting and intimidation against the Rohingya, some say largely by ethnic Rakhine vigilantes. Ongoing access restrictions to northern Rakine State make it difficult to provide a comprehensive picture of the situation, but the UN estimates that approximately 600,000 Rohingya have sought refuge in Bangladesh since 25 August. The Myanmar government has itself said that almost half the Rohingya villages in northern Rakhine State have been emptied. People continue to leave northern Rakhine State for Bangladesh. Fear, insecurity and access to food are now being cited as the principal reason for departures. In addition, an unknown number of Rohingya are displaced internally within northern Rakhine State. According to the Myanmar government, around 30,000 ethnic Rakhine and non-Muslim minorities are also displaced.

We are deeply disturbed by reports, including from the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, of widespread human rights abuses against the Rohingya. We are also disturbed by reports of killing of Buddhists, including ethnic Myo, and Hindu civilians. The precise number of deaths is disputed. Myanmar authorities claim around 500 people have been killed. UN officials have put the figure closer to a thousand, including civilians. Others put the figure higher still. Most UN agencies and international NGOs continue to face serious access constraints to northern Rakhine State. This is impeding the provision of humanitarian assistance and limiting the ability of humanitarian actors to assess needs. The Red Cross movement maintains the only large humanitarian operation currently allowed by the Myanmar government to operate in northern Rakhine State. On 11 October the Red Cross delivered the first substantial food supplies to northern Rakhine State since the outbreak of violence. Humanitarian assistance is not being delivered at the speed and scale required.

The Tatmadaw, the military of Myanmar, has announced the formation of a commission to deal with allegations of human rights violations in Rakhine State. The Myanmar government has established a Union Enterprise for Humanitarian Assistance, Resettlement and Development, led by a senior figure close to Aung San Suu Kyi. The two key objectives, as we understand them, of this new union enterprise, are to match funding needs in Rakhine State to available sources of funding; and this union enterprise has indicated that it will start implementing a repatriation plan of those who have left Rakhine State as soon as they reach agreement with the Bangladesh authorities.

Senator WONG: Who has stated?

Mr Green : In recent days the government has established a new institution called the Union Enterprise for Humanitarian Assistance, Resettlement and Development—

Senator WONG: Which government?

Mr Green : The government of Myanmar.

Senator WONG: Not ours.

Mr Green : No, not ours. We're a federation, not a union.

Senator WONG: You've been listening to Liberal frontbenchers too much, I think!

Mr Green : I'm sorry, Senator. This is important. This is why I mention it—

Senator WONG: I am going to ask you about that. This is the Bangladesh government initiative with Myanmar.

Mr Green : Correct.

Senator WONG: I am going to ask you about that. The name is Union Enterprise—

Mr Green : Union Enterprise for Humanitarian Assistance, Resettlement and Development. It is an institution of the government of Myanmar. As we understand it, there are at least two, and they seem two rather important, objectives of this institution. The first is to match funding requirements with funding sources. The second is to begin a process of repatriation. We're being told that that a repatriation plan will commence as soon as the government of Myanmar reaches agreement with the government of Bangladesh. We understand that the home affairs Minister of Bangladesh is in Myanmar this week.

Senator WONG: I want to come to that point. Can I first ask about the Kofi Annan report. The Advisory Commission on Rakhine State, chaired by Mr Annan, provided the report Towards a Peaceful, Fair and Prosperous Future for the People of Rakhine. Has the government articulated a position in relation to that report?

Mr Green : The government of Myanmar?

Senator WONG: No—our government.

Mr Green : I don't know whether it's been said in public in any forum, but I can tell you that the position of the government is we support the Annan report and we stand ready to support it not only with words but with funding if there is a possibility of supporting the particular measures that the report indicates are important.

Senator WONG: It's obviously in the interests of humanity, but also in the international community's interests, for the recommendations of that report to be implemented, given the circumstances you've outlined. Why hasn't the government made any public statement supportive of the Annan recommendations?

Mr Green : I would have to check whether the government has made a statement. But if I can explain—

Senator Brandis: Let me take that on notice. It may be that the foreign minister has said something.

Mr Green : I think there's another important point to make here. On the very day the Annan report was released there were attacks on a number of security posts by the ARSA militants, which gave rise to the very substantial violence which has resulted in the tragic events which we have been discussing this morning. Although the Annan report remains vitally important, I think it's also fair to say there was an urgency about a range of crisis events which has sucked up most of the attention in the period since 25 August.

Senator WONG: I want to go to the report in the Australian media that, and I want to give you the opportunity to respond, that Australia had pushed for the wording of a UN Human Rights Council resolution in relation to the Rohingya crisis to be weakened. The report stated that Australia pushed for the words 'such violations and abuses' to be removed and replaced with 'violence' within the resolution. I would like your response to the veracity of that assertion, first.

Mr Green : I wouldn't agree it was a weakening of the resolution, but Australia certainly made a textual suggestion which was accepted by other delegations in the room.

Senator WONG: The textual suggestion, as you call it, did that include the change I have outlined, which asked for the words 'such violations and abuses' to be removed and replaced with 'violence'?

Mr Green : Yes, we did. Would you like me to explain why?

Senator WONG: Yes. I was about to ask why we did that.

Mr Green : This was a resolution expanding the mandate of the UN fact-finding mission in Myanmar. As you would well know, the problem we are dealing with here is that the government of Myanmar has refused to allow the UN fact-finding mission to undertake its work in Myanmar. So the core diplomatic effort that we engaged in here is to get the government of Myanmar to accept the fact-finding mission and to allow it to do its work. The first part of this resolution speaks of 'expressing grave concern at the recent reports of serious human rights violations and abuses in Myanmar'. So the resolution doesn't step away from the seriousness of what's going on. But the effort we're attempting to make is to avoid a UN body prejudging the work of the fact-finding mission. In the context of seeking to encourage the government of Myanmar to engage with the fact-finding mission, a language in the resolution extending the mandate which would prejudge the situation we thought was unhelpful.

Senator WONG: Senior officials at the UN—including, from my recollection, the secretary-general and certainly the UN human rights high commissioner—have described this as a 'textbook example of ethnic cleansing'. On what basis do you think it is the right course to be suggesting that there aren't violations and abuses to be investigated?

Mr Green : The effect of the alteration wasn't to suggest such violations and abuses had not occurred. Indeed, the resolution retained language expressing grave concern over those reports.

Senator WONG: It certainly was described in the media as Australia whitewashing the UN line.

Mr Green : That was certainly not the intention. We are involved in a complex diplomatic engagement with Myanmar where a balance between engagement and pressure is essential if we are going to make forward progress.

Senator WONG: How does using the word, the non-specific term, 'violence' as opposed to 'violations and abuses' of human rights constitute engagement?

Mr Green : It avoids prejudging the situation in a way that would make it less likely the government of Myanmar would engage the fact-finding mission.

Senator WONG: Have they engaged with the fact-finding mission?

Mr Green : No.

Senator WONG: So it hasn't been a successful strategy thus far?

Mr Green : We do what we can.

Senator WONG: I know other senators have a lot of questions, so I will do one thing briefly in relation to the bilateral initiatives between Bangladesh and Myanmar on this issue. I thought it was the Bangladesh foreign minister, but you said the Minister for Home Affairs was currently visiting.

Mr Green : My information is the Minister for Home Affairs, but I'll check, and, if I'm wrong about that, I'll get back to you.

Senator WONG: Your information is probably more recent than mine. Are they in Myanmar?

Mr Green : He or she—sorry, I don't know the person—is due to be in Myanmar this week. I couldn't tell you for sure whether the person has, will be or is. Perhaps my colleague can.

Ms Klugman : I'm from the South and West Asia Division, and in that I cover Bangladesh. Indeed, it was the home minister of Bangladesh who visited Myanmar for border security talks in Naypyidaw, 23 to 25 October.

Senator WONG: Do we have any information as to the outcomes or progress of those discussions?

Ms Klugman : We have preliminary information about the outcome.

Senator WONG: Are you to share that?

Ms Klugman : It was by way of a briefing from the head of Bangladesh's foreign ministry, Foreign Secretary Haque, to our high commissioner and relevant high commissioners and ambassadors in Dhaka yesterday. The key outcome that I think was featured in some media reports from those discussions suggested that an agreement had been signed or reached for repatriation. Our understanding is that the questions of repatriation were at the very centre of those discussions, but, to our understanding, no final agreement has yet been reached. It's a good thing that discussions are happening, and we're staying in close contact with the government of Bangladesh as it takes those forward.

Senator WONG: In addition to this, is there some architecture to address implementing that outcome, or process towards that outcome, which I assume is safe return—not simply repatriation but a safe return—

Ms Klugman : Indeed.

Senator WONG: and an end to the violence.

Ms Klugman : Absolutely. The Bangladesh government has made it very clear and very public from their Prime Minister down the priority they give to repatriation, but repatriation on the basis of safety and dignity for those being repatriated. I think the devil might be in the detail of verification of identity. I think there's quite a complex set of issues for them to work through.

Senator WONG: What are we doing to support this process? There have been human rights abuses and reports of violence. Was 600,000 people the number you gave, Mr Green?

Mr Green : Correct.

Senator WONG: There have been quite distressing reports of what has occurred and on the current humanitarian crisis in Cox's Bazar and the lack of facilities for that number of people. Obviously the region then has an issue of having a very large number of displaced persons. We all have an interest in not only the violence ending but people being able to return to their communities safely. Australia has an interest in this. So what are we doing to support, insofar as we are able, this process to achieve a good outcome?

Ms Klugman : I can make just a few comments on the Bangladesh-Myanmar connection. Senator, I think you're quite aware of the work we're doing on the humanitarian side, so I will leave that for separate evidence.

Senator WONG: Sure.

Ms Klugman : When it comes to these discussions on repatriation between the governments of Bangladesh and Myanmar, one of the issues that will need to be resolved is the extent to which they can agree on some international, UN or other foreign involvement in the processes as they go forward. That is very much an issue that needs to be resolved between those two parties. Australia, the UN agencies, IOM and other governments are standing ready to provide the support that we can to facilitate what we hope will be a decent agreement between those two countries that allows for the proper, fair and safe repatriation of some of that large number of people suffering, as you say.

Senator WONG: Are we also engaging with Bangladesh to discern, other than standing ready to help, what additional diplomatic pressure and encouragement can be applied to try to facilitate the best outcome?

Ms Klugman : Yes. We're in very close and almost daily contact with Bangladesh on those matters.

Senator WONG: Thank you.

Mr Green : Could I add a little to Ms Klugman's evidence here because—

Senator WONG: I just have to leave, that's all. But you can! I don't want to be rude and walk out while you are talking. But there are other senators who are interested in this topic.

Mr Green : Precisely because this issue is of the moment, we've issued instructions to our embassies in a range of places around the world this week to engage more deeply with a range of governments on issues of repatriation and return so that we can better understand the scene and have a deeper engagement.

Senator SINGH: I would like to get to the humanitarian side of the situation, but firstly I want to ask if the department can provide an update on the number of Rohingya currently residing in Cox's Bazar and the surrounding areas.

Mr Green : The UN estimate is in the order of 600,000.

Senator SINGH: It is currently 600,000?

Ms Klugman : As at 23 October, over 603,000 had fled. So they added, as you know, to an existing substantial number of Rohingya who are in the Cox's Bazaar area. So the total in UN reckoning at the moment is 815,000 Rohingya there in Bangladesh.

Senator SINGH: Are we accepting the figures?

Mr Green : They are the best figures that are available. We have no better mechanism for identifying them.

Ms Klugman : On that basis, we are accepting those figures.

Senator SINGH: So the department quotes those figures?

Ms Klugman : Yes.

Mr Green : There is no better estimate.

Senator SINGH: Does the department have some understanding of the number of children that are residing at Cox's Bazaar?

Mr Green : I don't, but I can seek to get that for you.

Senator SINGH: Included in that, can you also—

Mr McDonald : It's about 70 per cent children and breastfeeding women, I think. But Mr Isbister can add to that.

Mr Isbister : As Mr McDonald said, of the 603,000 that have crossed over since late August—and the figures, again, are still difficult because registrations haven't formally been able to be put in place for all crossing—a majority, up to 70 per cent, are both women and children that have crossed over into Cox's Bazar.

Senator SINGH: I'm interested in the number of unaccompanied minors currently residing in Cox's Bazar.

Mr Isbister : We can take that on notice and provide you with that.

Senator SINGH: What particular risks do children face in this situation? What are the next steps, if any, that the Australian government is taking to ensure the safety of children?

Mr Isbister : Obviously we know any sort of humanitarian crisis involves large displacement of people and children are disproportionately impacted. There's no doubt there are a lot of unaccompanied minors who have crossed into Bangladesh. There is a strong focus by donors and humanitarian agencies to look at how we can best address those needs. From the Australian government side, of the $30 million we've provided to date, we have specifically looked at how we can focus that assistance to meet the needs of women and children, including through funding to UNFPA, around specific needs for women around sexual reproductive health and gender-based violence. We know up to seven in 10 women in humanitarian crises face gender-based violence. We've also deployed seven humanitarian experts into our UN partners to assist with that. We've got one with UNICEF that is particularly focused on looking at child protection issues, and with that how to develop child-safe areas and identify children who are at risk, and looking at how they can be provided either shelter or hosting with communities in safe areas.

We've also got a protection officer working with the IOM, who's coordinating the overall current response with the UNHCR in Cox's Bazar. We've got five other deployees that I mentioned who are working in a range of other areas. We're also partnering with Save the Children, Oxfam and CARE. With those NGO partners, one very strong focus is around how to address the needs of children. One of the things we know is the importance of trying to look at both recreational and temporary education opportunities for children. The more that we can both identify positive activities for children, it's not just a way of being able to determine the safety and, potentially, registration, but it also helps with the longer-term psychosocial impacts of displacement.

Senator SINGH: Thank you. I understand the government's invested $2.1 million in the MIKTA Education in Emergencies Challenge, through InnovationXchange. Given this challenge is still in the selection phase, will any opportunity be given to reframe this project so this funding can be used to support the delivery of education and child-safe spaces in Cox's Bazar?

Mr Isbister : I'll touch on education and Mr McDonald may talk a little bit more about the MIKTA Education in Emergencies Challenge. The reason around the challenge was the Australian government over the last couple of years has looked at how we can take a stronger focus around education in crises. That's been part of our multi-year approach in the Syria crisis, particularly for those displaced in Jordan and Lebanon. It's absolutely an issue we're already looking at in terms of what the approaches are around providing education for many of the children displaced in Bangladesh. What the right mechanism is to do that is going to be dependent on a number of things—obviously on what the Bangladesh government itself is willing to agree to and establish under their leadership, but also potentially on what's going to be needed in the shorter term and any solutions in the longer term. At the moment the focus, as I mentioned, is with Save the Children, UNICEF and agencies who are looking at temporary learning centres and provision of that. But I think with the Education in Emergencies Challenge and the education in crisis initiative that the UN is also looking at, it's certainly something that the Australian government is looking at, at how we may in the longer term support that. I'll pass to Mr McDonald on the innovation.

Mr McDonald : Firstly, in relation to education, you would also be aware of the Education Cannot Wait initiative, which Australia's also contributing to. That's specifically for dealing with issues like this that become either protracted or an emergency. I would expect that funding to be part of this. In terms of the specific question you ask around Education in Emergencies, that's a MIKTA initiative. We've got proposals in on that. We will be looking at those not only in relation to their applicability of this particular emergency, but also more broadly. It's about ensuring that kids are not missing out on the opportunity for education. You know very well what's happening in Syria, for example, where a whole generation's missing out on education. So the answer is yes. When we look at these and evaluate these, we will have that context.

Senator SINGH: By when will you have that?

Mr McDonald : Mr Scott might have the detail on that. I think we've got a process at the moment.

Mr Scott : We are in the final phases of doing the due diligence on the likely winners. There will be five to 10 winners. Expect an announcement within the next month.

Senator SINGH: Can I move on to health care then. What is the general standard of health care available at Cox's Bazar to refugees? Are you ensuring any kind of quality health care is available?

Mr Isbister : I think the evidence is very clear that with that number of people displaced in such a short time, there are very significant health needs both in terms of dealing with the acute health care of those who have been impacted or affected by the conflict in northern Rakhine State, but also in the risk of outbreaks of cholera and other waterborne diseases. We are absolutely looking within what we can do to support both the Bangladesh government and humanitarian agencies on that. We've got quite a strong focus in the work that we do with the IOM and the Australian NGOs around water and sanitation. We know the two key things that can prevent risk outbreaks are improvement of hygiene and water and sanitation, and also basic nutrition. As part of the $30 million, $8 million has gone to the World Food Program. A lot of that is focused on meeting the needs of children under five and also on providing special feeding assistance to women who are breastfeeding.

Also, through the partnership with the UNFPA, one of the issues is around providing, as I mentioned, sanitation kits, some family kits and sexual and reproductive health services, which, as we've known from many past crises, there's often been a major shortage of and been one of the impacts that's driven increased mortality rates, particularly of women and to some extent in children. My view on this is that the situation, from reporting from our partners and post, is dire. But the effort in the scale-up of agencies is already making a difference in terms of preventing a potential major outbreak of cholera or waterborne diseases. The challenge at this stage has simply been trying to look at how to manage and host that number of people in such a short time.

Mr McDonald : Just adding to that, one of the things the Australian government does, which you would be familiar with, is to give core funding to a number of these agencies. Part of the idea behind that is to ensure that funding can get onto the ground quickly. So not only in this case was Australia making contributions very early in the process of the first $15 million and then adding to that, but I think these agencies need to have funding they can quickly deploy to where the emergency is. There are downsides to that, in terms of the credit that we may or may not get for that. But I think it has an impact on the ground and that's why we're so committed to it.

Senator SINGH: Let's just quickly move to the humanitarian assistance. The minister's made funding announcements of $30 million since August. Where in the budget did the $30 million contribution to this humanitarian crisis in Bangladesh come from?

Mr McDonald : We've got a humanitarian budget of about $400 million this year, I think. I will double-check—$400 million or so. Within that, we have a line for emergencies like this, which is, I think, around $150 million, which Mr Wood can confirm. That's specifically set up for these emergencies either on a humanitarian basis, like this, or in relation to climatic or other emergencies that arise.

Senator SINGH: Okay.

Mr Wood : Our budget documentation discloses that there has been a $60 million increase in the humanitarian budget for 2017-18. As Mr McDonald said, the precise amount is $399.7 million. This includes an increase of $20 million in the Emergency Fund, which has increased from $130 million to $150 million, and also an increase in our funding for what we call protracted crises and strengthening humanitarian action. So overall there's been a $60 million increase in our humanitarian, emergency and refugee funding for the 2017-18 financial year.

Senator SINGH: But not all of that's for Bangladesh?

Mr Wood : Correct.

Senator SINGH: I'm just asking about the $30 million contribution to Bangladesh and whether I can have a breakdown of that.

Mr McDonald : Yes, we could take that on notice. The $30 million comes from our humanitarian budget of $400 million, which is specifically set up to deal with humanitarian issues that arise during the year, both in an emergency sense and, as Mr Wood said, in relation to protracted crises. You might remember, for example, Syria, where we set up a protracted line of a number of years.

Senator SINGH: Just finally, the minister's press release regarding the $10 million pledge that was made, I think, on Monday, stated:

The new contribution … will also support an upcoming joint funding appeal with the Australia Red Cross and Australia for UNHCR.

What will that support entail?

Mr Isbister : The minister announced an additional $10 million commitment. As part of that commitment, one of the things was to look at how the Australian government can continue to do what we can and need to do to support the humanitarian needs as a result of the Rohingya crisis but also how we can encourage support from the Australian public and the potential broader business community, so the minister is going to put another release out. But the idea is that we see benefit and have been engaging with the Red Cross, the UNHCR and our Australian NGO partners about how we can look at engaging the broader Australian public in a joint appeal to raise support and funding for the current crisis.

Senator SINGH: I have some other questions regarding funding, but I'll put them on notice because I want to skip to another area.

Senator MOORE: Can I just ask one question. You can take this away. I'd really like to get the funding actually defined as to where it's gone up until now. Mr Isbister, you've been giving bits of information—that this much is going there and this much is going there. Could we get that spelt out.

Also, on the website it talks about the number of people who are going to be assisted. I know that doesn't link, because this could include our joint arrangements with other agencies as well. I just want to ask one question. When we got the numbers earlier, there was the 600,000, which is the current discussed number about the people who are fleeing at the moment, and the number who are in Bangladesh now is about 830,000, including the people who've been stuck there for years in terms of the process. On the website it says: 'The people who are displaced, 603,000; the people in need, 1,200,000.' Can I just ask, not now but on notice, what those figures mean.

Mr Isbister : The main reason is that those in need are not just Rohingya refugees. There are also host communities.

Senator MOORE: Yes.

Mr Isbister : The figures that Ms Klugman and Mr Green gave were around the Rohingya, both those who had been before 25 August and those subsequent, but the figures in the Humanitarian Response Plan also include some Bangladeshi in host communities who would be receiving some assistance.

Senator MOORE: I thought that would be the case, but that's absolutely not clear in the way the website process is put up. It's under the heading 'assistance in response to displacement from Rakhine State, Myanmar'. That's the heading. As you know, there is so much interest at the moment across the community in this. I think people are confused, and they need to get information as straight as they possibly can.

Mr Isbister : Point taken, Senator. We'll make sure we—

Senator MOORE: That would be great.

Mr Isbister : Just on the figures: we can provide that quite easily.

Senator MOORE: That would be great.

Mr McDonald : I just need to correct. I just need to mention that, with the funding for the $30 million, it is a mix of the emergency funding and some of the bilateral program that we have built into that, so we will take it on notice and give you an exact split. I just wanted to correct that.

Senator SINGH: So it's not all just coming out of—

Ms Adamson : We will come back to you today on that. I think we've got the information. We'll just check it and—

Senator SINGH: All right. Perhaps you can come back with a breakdown as well.

Mr McDonald : Yes.

Senator SINGH: Can I just ask now in relation to Myanmar military. How much money is the Australian government spending on capacity building with Myanmar military?

Mr Green : I would have to take that on notice. That's largely a matter for the Department of Defence.

Senator SINGH: So you'll take it on notice, as you just said, Mr Green?

Ms Adamson : I think it is a matter for the Department of Defence, Senator.

Senator SINGH: So you won't take it on notice? You did say that. I'm just checking what the outcome for this question is.

Senator Brandis: It's a matter for—

Senator SINGH: No, we canvassed some of this with Defence yesterday, so I'm asking now some specific questions to this department.

Senator Brandis: Sure, Senator, but—

Senator SINGH: It's related to—

Senator Brandis: it's for the officials and ultimately me to judge whether a matter is within their department. Now, if it's not in their department, there's no point in taking it on notice, because, even if they do, the answer will be, 'This is a matter for the Department of Defence,' which is what they've already told you.

Senator SINGH: Okay. Is that what you're saying, Ms Adamson? This is not a matter at all for your department?

Ms Adamson : I'm not saying 'all', but, in the terms in which you framed the question, my answer would be that that is a matter for the Department of Defence.

Senator SINGH: Sorry, my colleagues are talking a bit too loudly. I can't hear you.

Ms Adamson : In response to you, my answer to your original question is that that is a matter for the Department of Defence.

Senator SINGH: Okay. Has the foreign minister raised concerns with Myanmar's government about possible ethnic-cleansing crimes against humanity by security forces against the Rohingya?

Mr Green : The government has on multiple occasions in private and in public raised concerns over a range of issues following the events in recent months in Rakhine State.

Senator SINGH: At what level were those concerns raised?

Mr Green : At the level of our ambassador, on several occasions. Those concerns have been raised in the Human Rights Council, and the foreign minister had the opportunity to raise those concerns at a roundtable convened during leaders week in the United Nations, at which the National Security Adviser for Myanmar was present, representing the government of Myanmar.

Senator SINGH: What was the Myanmar government's response?

Mr Green : I don't have with me what the precise response on that occasion was from the government of Myanmar. I could give you an account of the way in which Myanmar often responds to these inquiries, but I couldn't precisely tell you what the NSA said on that occasion.

Senator SINGH: Can you provide on notice the responses that have been given to the Australian government from the Myanmar government?

Mr Green : Some of those would be in private. But, to the extent that they're in the public domain, I would be happy to do that, Senator.

Senator SINGH: Just getting back to the Myanmar military, we did ask questions yesterday to the Department of Defence, and they were saying it was a matter for DFAT. That's why I've asked this question this morning. And you are saying it's a matter for Defence.

Ms Adamson : I think your specific question, if I recall correctly, was, 'How much?' It was a question with a dollar figure attached to it. The broader discussion about do we raise these things is one that we are very happy to answer in terms of the conduct of our bilateral relationship in addition to the instances Mr Green has referred to. That is, the fact that we have, albeit, very limited defence engagement does enable a conversation around the sorts of issues that you have raised about our concerns about Rakhine to be raised with Myanmar counterparts. I'm aware that, amongst those discussions, the Chief of Army himself has been able to raise it.

Senator SINGH: Is the Australian government spending money on capacity building with the Myanmar military?

Mr Green : That's a matter for the Department of Defence. I think it is true that the Department of Defence has a level of engagement with the government of Myanmar. Exactly what expenditures are associated with that and when they've occurred, I wouldn't be able to tell you and you would have to ask the Department of Defence.

Senator SINGH: What is the value of these military links for the Australian government?

Mr Green : The value of these military links is that it allows us to stay engaged with the military, which you would know is one of the key institutions in Myanmar. This is a government where the State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi civilian government doesn't have control over all elements of state power. Security ministries are in the hands of the Tatmadaw, so being able to stay engaged with the military of Myanmar is important. It's also valuable that our assistance helps to professionalise and modernise the military, with a focus on humanitarian and disaster relief peacekeeping and English language training. If I might, this also gives us channels to engage with the military in Myanmar. As you know, they are toward the centre of the events that we've heard about in recent months, so engagement with them is vital. If I could read to you just a small segment of what Kofi Annan said about this recently: 'It is important that other militaries offer advice.' He is speaking about the Tatmadaw and continued: 'We should remember that Myanmar is going through a very difficult transition after five decades of military rule. It is a tough situation to manage, and we need to work with both sides of Myanmar's government structure if we are to capitalise positive change.'

Senator SINGH: You would be aware, Mr Green, that some countries since August, for example, have cancelled military-to-military cooperation with Myanmar. My question was: what is the diplomatic value of our military links with Myanmar currently, and what are they intended to achieve?

Mr Green : It's principally leaves open a channel of communication with which we can engage with the Myanmar military, who are a vital vector in the crisis. I think the words of Kofi Annan speak volubly to the value of that sort of engagement.

Senator SINGH: Is DFAT cooperating with the Department of Defence on this right now, given the sensitive, diplomatic and human rights issues that are intertwined in this?

Mr Green : My team is in touch with the Department of Defence on an almost daily basis.

Senator SINGH: Have DFAT and Defence workshopped together the possibility of making any changes in light of the human rights issues that are unfolding?

Mr Green : I'm not comfortable with the word 'workshop', but we have regular interdepartmental committees in which the Department of Defence is always—

Senator MOORE: I am very happy about that, Mr Green. I do like an IDC.

Senator SINGH: Has DFAT or the Department of Defence together, or one or the other, raised human rights concerns through our military links?

Mr Green : Yes, we did, through the contacts that we spoke of before. That provided an opportunity for our Chief of Army, Lieutenant General Angus John Campbell, to raise issues directly with a very senior member of the Tatmadaw, Vice-Senior General Soe Win.

Senator SINGH: When did this occur?

Mr Green : On 19 September.

Senator SINGH: What message would we send if we cancelled military-to-military cooperation with Myanmar, as other countries obviously have done?

Ms Adamson : I think one element that's been absent from this discussion so far is a better sense of the parameters of what we do. Just to be very clear, there is an arms embargo. We do not conduct military exercises, for example, with the Tatmadaw. If you look at the spectrum of military-to-military engagement in many relationships, this is at the minimalist end of the spectrum for the reasons that Mr Green mentioned, including keeping a valuable line of communication open. As diplomats, we've seen the value of direct conversation between specialists, if you like, on our side and whatever the other side is, whether it's military or in other settings—it could be people from a range of different departments. That is a valuable adjunct to the diplomatic work that we do and enables direct messages to be conveyed to the people who need to hear them most directly. So from our perspective—although I understand where your question is coming from—the very limited defence relationship we have is nonetheless valuable, and is one that I think government is minded, notwithstanding the sensitivities and the point of your question, to maintain. Ultimately—

Senator ABETZ: But it's in a non-combat area, is it not?

Ms Adamson : That's correct, Senator.

CHAIR: The committee will now suspend and return at quarter to 11.

Proceedings suspended from 10 : 31 to 10 : 47

CHAIR: There are a couple of points of clarification from the department on previous questions.

Ms Adamson : Thank you, Chair. During the morning session, Senator Wong, I think, asked a question. We were discussing the DPRK open letter, and I can confirm that the New Zealand letter was received on 2 October. It went straight to their foreign minister's office.

CHAIR: Thank you.

Mr McDonald : I will just come back on the question Senator Singh asked on the split of the $30 million for the Myanmar-Bangladesh humanitarian crisis. Twenty-two million dollars is coming from our humanitarian budget, and $8 million is coming from the Bangladesh bilateral program, which provides for resilience and community support for Rohingya refugees.

CHAIR: Thank you.

Senator SINGH: You'd be aware that the UK and the United States have suspended military cooperation with Myanmar over the ongoing violence against Rohingya Muslims. Under questioning from the opposition in this committee yesterday, Defence officials told this committee that Australia had allocated $398,000 for military assistance to Myanmar. So I want to know whether the Australian government is considering also suspending military cooperation and spend with Myanmar, as our counterparts the US and the UK have done.

Mr Green : Could I first offer a point of information: the US announcement on its military engagement with Myanmar has only come out in the last couple of days, and we are still studying it to understand it fully, but I don't think it's right to say that the US has suspended military cooperation with Myanmar. In the main, what the US has done is chosen not to further progress plans to enhance its military cooperation with Myanmar. I think it is fair to say that the United States continues a level of engagement with the Myanmar military. In relation to your question about Australia's engagement, our engagement with Myanmar, as we spoke about in the previous session, it represents a balance. We need to show our concern over what has occurred, but there are also valuable lines of communication that we want to keep open and there are ways that we hope to influence the Myanmar military. The matter is under constant review and there will be continuing discussion about this between the Department of Defence and DFAT over coming days and weeks.

Senator SINGH: Okay—it's under review. You did mention that, on 19 September, Angus Campbell met with the Tatmadaw. Is will going to be another high-level meeting like that?

Mr Green : Not that I know of, Senator, but, again, the Department of Defence is more likely to have that information than me.

Senator SINGH: You did mention, though, that there is some cooperation between DFAT and Defence going on right now. Given the kind of sensitive diplomatic and human rights issues that are being faced in Myanmar, I wanted to know what's in train as far as ongoing dialogue between high-level officials, high-level military officials with high-level officials and military officials, in Myanmar is concerned.

Mr Green : It's a very good question, Senator. I'd like to answer it this way. We are actively looking for opportunities where our professional serving and retired Defence officials might have opportunities to engage with their counterparts in Myanmar in order to strengthen the understanding of the way in which a professional, modern military ought to operate and the costs to the Myanmar military of their involvement in recent violence.

Senator SINGH: Regarding the review you just referred to, has that got any time frame associated with it?

Mr Green : Senator, it's not a review. The situation in Myanmar is fluid and dynamic and, under these circumstances, we are keeping open our levels of engagement on an ongoing basis.

Senator SINGH: Finally, if we can go back to the pledging conference that occurred last Monday, understanding Australia pledged $10 million, I just want to know how that compares with other countries and whether our portion is a fair share compared to the other countries? I also understand that the pledging humanitarian response is a plan for six months, so I'd be interested to know what discussions the department is having with ministers beyond the next six months as well.

Mr Green : Regarding the pledging conference last week, I think Australia is still in the top four or five donors to that. I think it's important, as I said earlier, that we also recognise the core funding that we're providing through the other humanitarian partners, which are absolutely essential in these sorts of circumstances. In terms of that as well, I'd make the point that the pledging conference was on Monday, but Australia moved very quickly, as you know, for two very early contributions of $15 million and $5 million, and then we added to it this week. Mr Isbister can add to the second part, around the plan over the next six months.

Mr Isbister : As Mr McDonald said, we are currently the fourth-largest bilateral donor, the fifth-largest overall if you take out the European Commission out.

Senator MOORE: Is that general pledging or just at the pledging conference?

Mr Isbister : That's overall totals.

Senator MOORE: Yes, but I think Senator Singh's question was about the specific pledge.

Mr Isbister : With the actual pledges on one day, we will take it on notice and give you a figure, but we were certainly in the top five with the additional $10 million that we provided with other donors. In relation to your second question, yes, the current humanitarian response plan is for six months. I think that reflects the fact that the situation is changing very quickly. The number of people that have crossed over in the last few months and knowing what the situation may be in future months means that the plan has tried to best align what support resources are going to be needed but also to adapt to what emerges. A lot depends on the earlier discussions about what occurs in potential returns and repatriations. If that remains an ongoing or difficult issue then there's going to have to be development, I would think, of a further 12-month plan based on what the expectations are around December-January for what needs are going to be needed into the next calendar year. To be honest, at the moment the focus is around meeting the current needs right now but being aware that already on some of these things, around education, livelihoods et cetera, are going to have to be looked at going forward.

Senator SINGH: Is Australia negotiating with other ASEAN nations such as Indonesia to put pressure on Myanmar?

Mr Green : We are in very close contact with our ASEAN partners in relation to the situation in Myanmar, and you are right to single out Indonesia as the largest and, many would say, the most powerful state in ASEAN, as a country which has been through its own democratic transition and whose foreign minister has already been very active on the issue of Myanmar.

Senator SINGH: What are the nature of those negotiations with Indonesia?

Mr Green : We think that supporting Indonesian diplomacy and finding ways in which we might work together to improve the situation in Myanmar and across the border in Bangladesh is one of our best opportunities. We have done that, including consultation with Indonesia and other Bali Process members. We have done it by ways of joint humanitarian aid delivery between Australia and Indonesia. On 29 September Australia's embassy in Jakarta announced a collaboration between humanitarian specialists from Australia and Indonesia. We are in further discussions with Indonesia about the ways in which we might work together more effectively on the Myanmar crisis.

Ms Adamson : If I could just add, I would characterise it as close cooperation. It's not a matter for negotiation. Both our governments are concerned about what has transpired and we are working, as you would expect of close partners in the region, to try to resolve the situation. It's a close diplomatic partnership rather than a negotiation.

Senator SINGH: If you can recall, in July 2012 the Australian Government lifted targeted financial sanctions and travel bans on the Myanmar government and military. Is the government giving consideration to re-imposing those targeted travel and financial sanctions?

Mr Green : I don't feel I can give a better answer than those I've already given on this subject.

Senator ABETZ: Just to try to bring some of all this together, can you confirm that Australia's arms embargo is still in place?

Mr Green : Yes.

Senator ABETZ: When did that start? It was mentioned in Prime Minister Gillard's statement in 2013—that they were maintaining that, so that would have started some time earlier, one assumes.

Mr Green : I'd have to come back to you with a precise date.

Senator ABETZ: Yes, let's not delay on that. When was the decision taken to re-establish an Australian Defence attache?

Mr Green : Again, a matter for the Department of Defence. I don't know the answer.

Senator ABETZ: Does anybody recall whether that was part of then Prime Minister Gillard's statement in March 2013?

Mr Green : I don't.

Senator ABETZ: Alright, take that on notice, if you would. Does Foreign Affairs cross-pollinate with Defence from to time? I'll preface my question with that, inasmuch as Prime Minister Gillard's statement of 18 March 2013, the Defence paper found that modest Defence ties actually support political reform. Whilst I accept that it's always a balance and it's a movable feast, but at the time in 2013, the re-establishment or lifting restrictions on Defence interactions was seen as being helpful for the political reform process, and I would assume Foreign Affairs has an eye to that as well.

Mr Green : I don't know the exact detail, but I think you're correct about the direction of travel. There has been a strong view that Myanmar's democratic trajectory needs to be supported and, because of the particular role of the military, engagement with the military is an important element of that support.

Senator ABETZ: Just to be absolutely clear, that engagement with the military is on the basis of peacekeeping, humanitarian and in non-combat areas?

Mr Green : That's correct, though it also provides us with opportunities to talk about issues of democracy, human rights.

Senator ABETZ: In fact our last interaction was in 2016—albeit that was just a humanitarian one.

Mr Green : I understand that is right.

Senator ABETZ: Having visited the refugee camps along the Thailand border, can you advise what ongoing support the Australian government is providing in that area or to those camps?

Mr Green : I would have to take that on notice.

Senator ABETZ: Alright, please do.

Mr Isbister : Just briefly, I'd say we continue to provide humanitarian assistance on the Thai-Burma border. The exact amount in this calendar year we can take that on notice and come back to you on.

Senator ABETZ: Does that come out of the emergency fund?

Mr Isbister : It comes out of two sources. It comes out of part of the Myanmar program, and at times we will provide supplementary support from the humanitarian program, depending on the needs and situation on the border.

Senator ABETZ: Is the humanitarian program another name for the emergency fund, or is there no such thing as the emergency fund?

Mr Isbister : The emergency fund is part of the overall humanitarian budget.

Senator ABETZ: I don't pretend to be an expert in this area, but the money that might find its way from the humanitarian program would be from the emergency part of the humanitarian program.

Mr Isbister : That's right.

Senator ABETZ: We're talking about the same thing, so that is helpful. Has the emergency fund been increased in recent times?

Mr Isbister : Yes, I think it was referred to earlier in estimates, but in this budget year the overall humanitarian budget has increased by $60 million to just under $400 million. As part of that the emergency fund has increased from $130 million to $150 million, so a $20 million increase.

Senator ABETZ: As somebody who is critical from time to time of our foreign spending, this is an area that I assure you I fully support, because it deals with genuine humanitarian needs. Just to confirm: previously this humanitarian program was in fact cut to provide funding for onshore detention centres, is that correct?

Mr M cDonald : There are a couple of things there. When the current government came into office the emergency budget was $90 million. It's now $150 million. There was provision out of the overall aid budget in relation to what you're talking about.

Senator ABETZ: The aid budget, alright, fine.

Mr M cDonald : Yes, overall, and that's no longer a part of the budget.

Senator ABETZ: Yes, because we've been able to close them.

Senator McKIM: Good morning, everyone. Can I just start by asking whether the Australian government recognises that the atrocities being committed against the Rohingya people by the Myanmar security forces amount to ethnic cleansing?

Mr Green : Access to northern Rakhine State is severely limited. Our ability to get there, like others' ability to get there, is very constrained. I think I'm right in saying there's been only one visit since 25 August: a brief one by our ambassador in company with other ambassadors, organised by the government. The government isn't in a position to make an independent verification of claims such as those that you have indicated. That is why the government has strongly supported and indeed co-sponsored a resolution in the UN Human Rights Council to the mandate of the UN fact-finding submission, because it is only through that sort of process that we would be able to come to firm conclusions to questions such as those that you've raised.

Senator McKIM: The United Nations describes it as a textbook example of ethnic cleansing, doesn't it?

Mr Green : A senior UN official has said that, yes.

Senator McKIM: Is that senior UN official wrong in Australia's view?

Mr Green : We have no basis to falsify his information.

Senator McKIM: Has DFAT provided advice to the foreign minister about whether or not this is able to be accurately described as ethnic cleansing?

Mr Green : If we had, it would be along the lines that I'd given you—that DFAT wasn't in a position to make an independent verification, given the limited access to the area.

Senator McKIM: Human Rights Watch has described what happening as a crime against humanity. Is that the view of the Australian government?

Mr Green : Once again, that would be a matter which would require levels of information which the Australian government doesn't have access to.

Senator McKIM: The Canadian Prime Minister, Mr Trudeau, has described what's happening as brutal persecution. Does the Australian government agree?

Mr Green : Certainly abuses have occurred in all likelihood, but, as I said before, it is difficult for us to make any firm conclusions about precisely what has happened.

Senator McKIM: On what date did the Australian ambassador visit Rakhine State?

Mr Green : I might have to get back to you later in the day, but it was in the last month.

Senator McKIM: Is it correct that the Australian ambassador, or someone else in DFAT, put out a statement post that visit, condemning the Rohingya insurgency but not condemning the Myanmar military?

Mr Green : A statement about the situation was released by a group of ambassadors involved in that visit. The visit took place on 2 October, I'm advised.

Senator McKIM: Was that statement endorsed by the Australian ambassador?

Mr Green : Yes.

Senator McKIM: Did that statement condemn the Rohingya insurgency but fail to condemn the Myanmar military?

Mr Green : I would have to check.

Senator McKIM: I'm sure you'll be able to do that relatively quickly. I will flag that I intend to come back to that in this group of questions. I'll paraphrase you here, but you've basically said that Australia's not prepared at this stage to describe what's happening as ethnic cleansing, on the basis that you don't have enough information currently before you. Is that accurate?

Mr Green : That's correct.

Senator McKIM: What level of access or what additional information would you require in order to be able to make that evaluation?

Mr Green : That would require an on-the-ground evaluation and a range of interviews and other techniques of the sort that was envisaged by the UN fact-finding mission. That's why we've continued to support, and indeed supported the extension of the mandate of, the UN fact-finding mission.

Senator McKIM: The ambassador visiting is not of itself enough?

Mr Green : It is in no way a substitute for the proper study that's required.

Senator McKIM: The United Nations describing it as a textbook example of ethnic cleansing is also not enough in the view of the department?

Mr Green : I think the United Nations doesn't have a lot more information than that which we have.

Senator McKIM: That is kind of my point. If the United Nations, on the basis of, perhaps, identical or very similar information to what you have, is able to describe it as ethnic cleansing, why is the Australian government not able to?

Mr Green : There are a range of actors in this—a number of governments and a number of UN agencies. I think I'm right in saying that one head of one UN agency has made that particular claim. Australia is by no means alone in not being able to make that claim at this point.

Senator McKIM: I understand Senator Wong' has raised this issue in broad terms, but I want to ask you about the UN Human Rights Council resolution on the atrocities committed against Rohingya people in Myanmar. Was it the Australian government's position that you would not support the motion with the words 'violations and abuse' in it, and that you insisted on the use of the word 'violence' to replace 'violations and abuse'.

Mr Green : No, it was not than sort of intervention. It was an intervention to suggest a drafting change to a resolution, in a relatively informal setting—a drafting change, which, by the way, others at the meeting readily agreed to.

Senator McKIM: That was Australia's proposal—to suggest that drafting change?

Mr Green : It was indeed.

Senator McKIM: Would you agree that that's a softening of the motion?

Mr Green : That was not its intention. As I explained earlier, its intention was to increase the likelihood that the Myanmar government wouldn't see the results of the fact-finding mission as being prejudiced, and, thereby, to increase the chances that the Myanmar government would engage with the fact-finding mission and allow it to undertake its activities in Myanmar.

Senator McKIM: Has the foreign minister raised concerns directly with the Myanmar government about what's happening in Rakhine state?

Mr Green : Yes.

Senator McKIM: Personally?

Mr Green : Yes.

Senator McKIM: To whom?

Mr Green : During Leaders' Week in the United Nations she attended a round table specifically focused on issues relating to Myanmar and Rakhine State, at which the government of Myanmar was represented by their national security advisor, and the minister made representations on that occasion directly to the NSA.

Senator McKIM: So, it's accurate to say that at no stage has either the foreign minister or the Prime Minister raised concerns with their Myanmar equivalents?

Mr Green : I wouldn't say 'at not stage'. The foreign minister wrote to Aung San Suu Kyi about an earlier phase in this crisis earlier this year.

Senator McKIM: I think most people who have been following this are aware that displacement of Rohingya people has been an issue for some time, but I will focus in on the latest crisis—say, the last two to three months. So, in the last two or three months has either the foreign minister or the Prime Minister contacted either of their equivalents in Myanmar directly, to express Australia's concern?

Mr Green : It was the intention of the foreign minister to raise the issues directly with Aung San Suu Kyi during Leaders' Week in the United Nations. As you might recall, Aung San Suu Kyi chose not to attend UN Leaders' Week. Her chief representative was the national security advisor, with whom the foreign minister raised her concerns.

Senator McKIM: Given it was the foreign minister's intention to raise this issue with Ms Suu Kyi at that meeting, and Ms Suu Kyi decided not to attend, as you have side, how has the foreign minister followed up? And how, if at all, has she attempted to make contact with Aung San Suu Kyi directly to express Australia's concerns?

Mr Green : She raised it with the national security advisor, who was the highest representative of the government of Myanmar at the forum in New York.

Senator McKIM: I will just ask my previous question: is it accurate for this committee to understand that at no stage has the foreign minister or the Prime Minister raised Australia's concerns directly with their equivalents in the Myanmar government?

Mr Green : As I said, the foreign minister wrote a letter to Aung San Suu Kyi earlier—

Senator McKIM: No, I will focus you in again: I'm speaking about the last two to three months—the period of time in which there has been a mass displacement of hundreds of thousands of Rohingya people across the border into Bangladesh. So, since that meeting—the one that Ms Suu Kyi decided not to attend—has either the foreign minister or the Prime Minister directly raised Australia's concerns about what's happening in Rakhine state with either of their equivalents in the Myanmar government?

Mr Green : No, they haven't had direct contact with them.

Senator McKIM: Why not?

Ms Adamson : Obviously, our ambassador in Yangon speaks on behalf of the Prime Minister. In his contacts with the government of Myanmar he will have made very clear the Australian government's position. With respect, I understand the specific question you're asking but I think the broader context is one in which the Australian government's views are well known. We have also been seeking to engage in regional diplomacy, particularly through working very closely with Indonesia. The cycle of international meetings is such that there will be opportunities next month, when ASEAN leaders meet, for Australia's position to be reiterated.

Senator McKIM: Would it be accurate to suggest that, compared to an ambassador raising something, Australia's foreign minister raising that matter would constitute an escalation diplomatically?

Ms Adamson : Ambassadors are well skilled in speaking on behalf of the foreign minister and the Prime Minister and conveying Australia's views. So I would not interpret the absence of any particular personal interaction as being a lack of concern on the part of the Australian government at what is happening nor indeed a lack of determination to work with all interested parties to try and ameliorate it.

Senator McKIM: I'm not impugning the skill of any of your staff. I want to repeat my question: compared to an ambassador raising a matter, if Australia's foreign minister raised a matter, that would constitute a diplomatic escalation, would it not?

Ms Adamson : Ambassadors speak not only in their own right; they can speak explicitly on behalf of the foreign minister or the Prime Minister. You are right that there is a hierarchy, but ambassadors are skilled at calling in aid. They convey the views of ministers and Prime Ministers.

Senator McKIM: Again, this isn't about the skill, or lack thereof, of any of your staff. You've accepted that there is a hierarchy. Within that hierarchy would it be accurate that the foreign minister or the Prime Minister directly raising a matter with their equivalent in the Myanmar government would constitute a diplomatic escalation in that hierarchy compared to the ambassador raising those matters?

Ms Adamson : The point I'm trying to make is that ambassadors do a whole lot of work simply in their own right. On other occasions, on behalf of a minister or the Prime Minister, they are able specifically to convey at the highest levels the Australian government's concerns. So it's not just a matter of who is speaking; it is what they say. Prime minister to prime minister or foreign minister to foreign minister is a more direct form of communication but it is not the only form.

Senator McKIM: But it is higher up in the hierarchy.

Ms Adamson : Obviously a foreign minister is more senior than an ambassador. My point is that ambassadors are able to speak with the full authority of the government, including, for example, specifically saying, 'I'm conveying the concerns of my foreign minister.'

Senator McKIM: I do understand that. I hope we're not speaking at cross-purposes here.

Ms Adamson : I don't think we are. I think we both understand each other.

Senator McKIM: I hope we do, but I would just like to be able to confirm that on the record. You have spoken about a hierarchy. You have made the obvious point that the foreign minister is more senior than an ambassador. Of course, we all understand that. But in the hierarchy of diplomatic communications it's accurate, isn't it, that a foreign minister raising something with their equivalent in a foreign government is higher in the hierarchy of diplomatic engagement than an ambassador raising something. That is just a statement of fact, but take it out of context and let me ask it as a general question if you like.

Ms Adamson : It is if they are each speaking in their own right. But the point I make is that part of the art of diplomacy is being able to convey a direct message on behalf of someone and, even though it's the same person speaking, escalate the message. You are right in what you've said, but I'm also saying there are ways of bridging that gap and amplifying, if you like, the voice of an ambassador beyond that which he or she would normally carry.

Senator McKIM: If it is about amplifying the message, why has the Australian foreign minister not contacted her counterpart in Myanmar directly to amplify Australia's concern about what's happening?

Ms Adamson : As Mr Green has said, there was an intention on the part of the foreign minister to have a discussion with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi in New York at Leaders Week. If we can approach this from another direction perhaps: the government of Myanmar is in absolutely no doubt, I am sure, of the Australian government's views on this matter. Whether there has been direct conversations between counterparts or not, the point is that our position is well known and the commitment that we bring to try and resolve what is in humanitarian terms a very distressing situation is without doubt.

Senator McKIM: Many people, including me, think Australia's response to this crisis has been abject and pathetic and that we have missed a significant opportunity to put maximum pressure on the Myanmar military to stop their ethnic cleansing. The questions I'm asking have been raised with me by many interested parties in an attempt to understand why we are not using all the tools in the toolkit to, as you put it, amplify our message. Why are we not using all the tools in the toolkit to do that?

Ms Adamson : I think we're using a very wide range of tools in our toolkits, not all of which are necessarily in the public domain. We spoke this morning—and Mr Green would be happy to reiterate it, I'm sure—about contacts between our militaries, including at the level of Chief of Army, where precisely the sort of conversation you are envisaging has taken place.

Senator McKIM: We'll come to those matters in a minute. But you haven't pulled out your biggest shifter yet, have you? You have got in the toolkit. The biggest shifter would actually be the Prime Minister in this case raising matters directly with Ms Suu Kyi, which has not happened—certainly it is not in the public domain if it has. The next biggest shifter would be the foreign minister raising matters directly with her equivalent. You have just said that that has not occurred in the last few months. So I'm just wondering why we are just using the medium sized shifter here.

Ms Adamson : As Mr Green explained, the foreign minister had a discussion with the national security advisor in New York. He would have reported on his return to Myanmar, I'm sure, the views that were expressed in New York. I hear what you are saying, but we're taking all opportunities to make our views known and we will continue to do that in the months ahead in the range of other meetings at which we will be present and, we expect, representatives of Myanmar will be present as well.

Senator McKIM: You've said that you have taken all opportunities. That's actually not right, is it? There is an opportunity for, for example, the foreign minister to raise Australia's concerns directly with the Myanmar foreign minister. That hasn't happened, has it?

Mr Green : And that was the intention of the foreign minister at Leaders' Week.

Senator McKIM: But that was a month ago. What's been done since?

Mr Green : Quite a lot. We have consistently called for an end to violence, the protection of citizens and unfettered access for humanitarian actors. We have done that directly with the Myanmar government on a very large number of occasions, including by our head of mission. And we've made five separate public statements—on 28 August, 5 September, 9 September, 19 September and 23 October. And, at the UN Human Rights Council, Australia co-sponsored a resolution on the matter, as well as engaging with the interactive dialogue in that opportunity. So a very wide range of opportunities have been taken, and the foreign minister would have taken the opportunity with Aung San Suu Kyi had she been present in New York.

Senator McKIM: I understand that. But isn't it passing strange, Mr Green or Ms Adamson, that, having had an intention to raise something directly with Ms Suu Kyi—presumably on the basis of Ms Suu Kyi's combined station as leader of the government and foreign minister in Myanmar—and having not been able to do that because of Ms Suu Kyi's decision not to attend, the foreign minister has not raised, in over a month, what she intended to raise and was only prevented from raising by Ms Suu Kyi's failure to attend? We don't have to use carrier pigeons these days.

Mr Green : She did raise it: she raised it with the National Security Adviser, who was specifically deputised by Aung San Suu Kyi to attend that meeting.

Senator McKIM: Thank you.

Mr Green : And I have little doubt that the National Security Adviser conveyed the views of the foreign minister to the State Counsellor.

Senator McKIM: The question remains, and it remains unanswered despite a number of questions from me this morning, as to why Australia's foreign minister has decided not to raise Australia's concerns directly with Ms Suu Kyi post the UN meeting at which you've given evidence that she intended to do so. A month later, despite having been prevented from raising her issues directly with Ms Suu Kyi face-to-face because Ms Suu Kyi wasn't there, Australia's foreign minister has chosen not to raise Australia's concerns directly with Ms Suu Kyi, and I'm simply trying to ask why. It's a blatant failing—one of the blatant failings in Australia's quite pathetic response to this issue.

Mr Green : Can I just add that the foreign minister has made very clear her very deep concern about issues in the northern Rakhine state in a range of forums, including on the Insiders program, where she spoke fulsomely about the issue.

Ms Adamson : Senator, I'm sorry, but I think you said the foreign minister has decided not to. That is not the case. The foreign minister has made her views known and Australia's views known.

Senator McKIM: Directly with Ms Suu Kyi—that was my comment.

Ms Adamson : Yes, but you said she has decided not to.

Senator McKIM: Yes.

Ms Adamson : In fact, the reality is that Daw Aung San Suu Kyi is very well aware of Australia's views.

Senator McKIM: Yes, but not because they've been raised with her directly by the foreign minister.

Ms Adamson : A letter speaking to Myanmar's representative there—

Senator McKIM: The letter was previous.

Ms Adamson : Speaking in her own General Assembly speech about Australia's concerns about what has been going on—so I'm afraid I just can't accept your characterisation of her views on this matter.

Senator Brandis: In fact, Senator McKim—I'm sorry, I was out of the room for a little while, but I have followed the line of your questions—you seem yourself to acknowledge that the foreign minister did decide to raise the matter directly with Aung San Suu Kyi during Leaders' Week and was only prevented from doing so, as you acknowledge, by Aung San Suu Kyi's absence from New York on that occasion.

Senator McKIM: Thanks, Senator; that's been made very clear.

Senator Brandis: For that reason, my point is it's unfair to say the foreign minister decided not to raise it—

Senator McKIM: Well, in fact, it's not unfair at all.

Senator Brandis: when she actually decided to raise it and was prevented from doing so.

CHAIR: Thanks for that clarification.

Senator McKIM: Senator Brandis, you are wrong, and the reason you are wrong is that, when I say that the foreign minister has chosen not to raise these matters directly with Ms Suu Kyi, I am speaking in the context of post that meeting—at which we've heard evidence she intended to raise them directly with Ms Suu Kyi but was prevented from doing so by Ms Suu Kyi's failure to attend.

CHAIR: Senator McKim, Senator Fawcett has something on this topic—

Senator McKIM: So my question to you, Senator Brandis, as the government's representative here, is: why has the Australian foreign minister chosen not to directly raise Australia's concerns with Ms Suu Kyi post the meeting that Ms Suu Kyi did not attend and at which, we've heard evidence, there was an intention to raise the matters directly with her?

Senator Brandis: Senator McKim, what you're putting to me is completely incorrect.

Senator McKIM: It's not.

Senator Brandis: She has made no such decision. She, in fact, decided, as you acknowledge, to raise the matter with Aung San Suu Kyi at Leaders' Week and was unable to do so because of Aung San Suu Kyi's unavailability and for no other reason. There has not since then been any decision not to raise the matter directly, and you've heard about the ways in which, through appropriate diplomatic channels and public declarations of Australian policy, the foreign minister has addressed the issue. The fact that she hasn't had the opportunity of a face-to-face meeting with Aung San Suu Kyi since Leaders' Week does not, on any fair view, invite the inference that she has decided not to raise the matter with her.

Senator McKIM: It most certainly does.

Senator Brandis: It certainly does not.

Senator McKIM: It most certainly does raise that possibility.

CHAIR: Senator McKim, Senator Fawcett has a brief question and then we will return.

Senator FAWCETT: Ms Adamson, I just want to get something onto the record. We're talking here about the intent of the Australian government and the intent is clearly to change outcomes on the ground as opposed to just posturing. My understanding is that less than two weeks ago Australia co-chaired the first meeting of the Bali Process. Could you talk to the committee a little bit about who our co-chair is—Indonesia obviously—but the role that we're playing in terms of engaging regional nations to actually see a positive outcome on the ground there, as opposed to just making statements?

Ms Adamson : Thank you for your question. I see that my colleague Andrew Goledzinowski has come to the table. He is more deeply acquainted with the reasons for that meeting being convened and, indeed, what transpired at the meeting.

Mr Goledzinowski : Thank you for your question. As I think you know, but I might say for the record, the Bali Process is a regional network of 48 members, co-chaired by Australia and Indonesia. It's not primarily an emergency response mechanism. But after the 2015 Rohingya crisis in the Andaman Sea, the next meeting of the Bali Process ministers, co-chaired by Minister Julie Bishop and Minister Retno Marsudi, in March 2016, did deal with the consequences of what had happened in 2015. There was some very healthy reflection on the role of the Bali Process, and there were two basic outcomes from that—well, three. First, an acknowledgement that the Bali Process, although not an emergency response mechanism, did have a responsibility to address problems like that. Secondly, there was a decision made by ministers to commission a lessons learnt exercise to determine what had happened in 2015, who had acted, what lessons might be learnt from it and what policy recommendations might flow from that. The third outcome, which was very unusual, was that the Bali Process ministers agreed to commission a new mechanism within the region, which is now called the Bali Process Consultative Mechanism, which allows the co-chairs, Australia and Indonesia, either at their own agency, or at the request of a member country, to convene and consult around an emergency irregular migration situation. There were some discussions at the United Nations General Assembly meeting in New York earlier last month between the two ministerial co-chairs and they decided that it was now appropriate to trigger that consultation mechanism. They asked the official-level co-chairs, myself and my Indonesian counterpart, to discuss that with the members of the steering group of the Bali Process. Those other members agreed that the time was right for the Bali Process to intervene.

Senator FAWCETT: Could you outline who those other members are?

Mr Goledzinowski : Yes. Australia and Indonesia, Thailand and New Zealand, the UNHCR and the International Organization for Migration. The decision was taken that those six members, together with the two most affected countries—Myanmar and Bangladesh—would be invited to a consultation, which took place in Jakarta on the 13th of this month. That consultation, in line with the spirit of the Bali Process, it was resolved, would be informal, non-binding, voluntary and confidential. Everyone agreed to respect those guidelines. That meeting took place. It was attended at very senior officials level. All those eight participants attended. The meeting took a day and I can say without breaching the spirit of the meeting which, as I said, it was agreed would be confidential, because it was judged that was the most effective way to make progress, I can say the meeting was held in a positive atmosphere and it was a constructive and fruitful meeting. The last thing that I could say about that is that consultations are continuing.

Senator FAWCETT: Ms Adamson, would it be fair to say then that, despite all the comments that have been made, your department is taking very concrete steps to reach practical actions and agreement that will change the facts on the ground for all affected parties, as opposed to just posturing through statements?

Ms Adamson : That is indeed correct.

CHAIR: Senator McKim.

Senator McKIM: Just to tie off on this line of questioning, can I ask whether it's the intention of the government to use its membership of the UN Human Rights Council to call for an investigation into the violence in the Rakhine state, with an intent to hold to account those responsible for human rights violations?

Mr Green : The government has already supported the UN fact-finding mission, which would be the natural first step under those circumstances. We co-sponsored the resolution to extend the mandate of the fact-finding mission.

Senator McKIM: I understand that. Is there any intention on behalf of the government to call for or support a more comprehensive UN investigation than simply a fact-finding mission?

Mr Green : All of the discussion in international circles at the moment has been about the vital first step of the fact-finding mission.

Senator McKIM: All right. And this goes to at least overlapping with the response that we've just had. We're obviously co-chair of the Bali Process, and I've heard the evidence that's just been given to the committee. Could you outline any timetable which may have come from the meeting—was it 15 October?

Mr Goledzinowski : 13 October.

Senator McKIM: What has come out of that in terms of concrete decisions and any timetable?

Mr Goledzinowski : As I said, it was a confidential process. A co-chairs' report was produced for the two ministers. That was shared with the participants. That is not a public document and we won't be releasing that publicly. It was agreed that further consultations would take place. The next regular meeting of the Bali Process is in fact a senior officials' meeting, which happens to be occurring next week in Kuala Lumpur. All of the participants who attended the special consultation mechanism meeting in Jakarta will happen to be in Kuala Lumpur and that might be an opportunity for us at a confidential diplomatic level to continue what I earlier characterised as a constructive engagement amongst the key players.

Senator McKIM: On what basis was the decision taken to not release that outcome publicly?

Mr Goledzinowski : That was an agreement between all the participating countries and organisations.

Senator McKIM: Yes. On what basis was that agreement made? For what reason?

Mr Goledzinowski : Because we judged that that was the most effective way to progress the dialogue that we wanted to begin. We didn't want to have a single meeting. We wanted to begin a process that would build trust and confidence. A lot of people would have been surprised to know that that meeting took place at all, and particularly at the senior level at which it was attended. We didn't want to breach that trust. We wanted to leave the options open for further consultations. As you said, Senator, there's a toolkit and there's a variety of tools in the toolkit. We were very much conscious that we had, as you said, a shifter in our hand and not a hammer—

Senator McKIM: It is just that no-one in the Australian government is wielding any kind of hammer at the moment and that's the problem.

Senator Brandis: Senator McKim, that's just wrong—

Senator McKIM: It's not wrong at all.

Senator Brandis: Let me demonstrate to you how it is wrong. The Secretary might indicate to the committee, so as to correct the false impression you have apparently deliberately fostered here, precisely what Ms Bishop did say. May the Secretary do that, Madam Chair?

Senator McKIM: Point of order, Chair. I haven't actually asked about that. In fact the Attorney is not responding to a question I asked at all. My understanding clearly of the standing orders is that I get to ask the questions here on behalf of the committee—

CHAIR: Senator McKim, it is a two-way process—

Senator McKIM: Yes, but I haven't asked the question. The Attorney has just butted in and tried to set the agenda for my line of questioning.

Senator Brandis: Point of order, Madam Chair. As the minister at the table I am at liberty to take any questions—

Senator McKIM: I haven't asked one—

Senator Brandis: The contradiction that Senator McKim made or the comment he made in relation to the answer the official just gave was incorrect—I suspect, deliberately so—and I am now responding on behalf of the government and, in doing so, asking you, Madam Chairman, to allow the Secretary of the Department of the Foreign Affairs and Trade to correct the record so that the committee is not misled.

CHAIR: Thank you. There are two points of order. I will rule on both.

Senator McKIM: Chair—

CHAIR: Senator McKim, can I just deal with the two points of order in front of me at the moment.

Senator McKIM: Of course. I was going to attempt to assist.

CHAIR: Yes, you are entitled to ask questions. Done. Senator Brandis, as minister, is also entitled, as he stated correctly, to accept any questions in order to clarify it. He has asked Ms Adamson to assist the committee in this manner. As Chair, I would appreciate that assistance. Once Ms Adamson has finished providing that clarity we will proceed to your other questions.

Senator McKIM: Thank you.

Ms Adamson : We have been speaking quite a bit this morning about the foreign minister's views on various aspects of the situation. I thought it might be helpful to read into the record what the minister actually said during UN Leaders' Week at a working lunch on the situation in Rakhine state.

Senator McKIM: Thank you.

Ms Adamson : She said:

It is worth noting with a heavy heart that I join this meeting today for it was not so long ago that we were collectively lauding Myanmar as an emerging democratic state.

Australia is deeply concerned by the violence in Rakhine State and the resulting humanitarian crises in Myanmar and Bangladesh.

Australia condemns the attacks on government forces by the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army—violence is not the solution to Rakhine State's complex issues.

We cannot condone attacks by government forces. Violence is never a solution.

We recognise that Myanmar has security challenges to address, but that does not legitimise the use of excessive force by government forces or other actors. We do not have confirmation of reports coming out of Myanmar, but the indications that civilians have been targeted and villages burnt down are deeply disturbing.

Clearly something is gravely wrong in Rakhine State—the fact that over 400,000 people have sought sanctuary in Bangladesh is evidence enough of that.

The Government of Myanmar has a responsibility to protect all citizens in its territory, and where human rights violations have taken place, those responsible must be held to account.

We call for an end to the security operations in Rakhine State. Further violence and instability could fuel radicalisation in the region and create a rallying point for international jihadists.

Regional groups and other friends have a special role to play in addressing the immediate crises and assisting Myanmar with the underlying drivers of instability. In particular, I want to commend the proactive efforts of my friend and colleague, Indonesia's Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi.

Australia is committed to working with regional partners and the international community to immediately address the humanitarian crises in Myanmar and Bangladesh.

We are also committed to supporting Myanmar's efforts to find long-term solutions to the situation in Rakhine State.

We welcome the Government of Myanmar's commitment to provide humanitarian assistance to all communities in need through the Red Cross movement. It is vital that Myanmar allows unfettered access for other humanitarian agencies as soon as possible, to help to meet the scale of need.

Australia recognises the heavy burden being placed on Bangladesh by the instability in Rakhine State.

In recent days we offered $5 million for humanitarian support, and today I confirm we are providing up to $15 million in additional humanitarian assistance to Bangladesh and Myanmar to help address the humanitarian needs of those affected by the crisis.

This brings Australia's assistance for Rohingya and affected communities in Myanmar and Bangladesh to over $65 million since 2012.

Australia welcomes the Myanmar Government's commitment to implement the recommendations contained in the final report of the Kofi Annan-led Advisory Commission on Rakhine State. Implementation will be a long-term process and Australia stands ready to assist Myanmar in its efforts.

We will need more of these meetings to address the current situation, but this meeting is a good start.

Senator McKIM: Thank you, Ms Adamson. That's indeed helpful and highly instructive, I might say. Could you explain, please, why Australia or the foreign minister in that statement condemned the attacks on government forces by the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army but at no stage condemned the action of the Myanmar military?

Mr Green : It's a matter of fact, undisputed—and in fact established by the ARSA itself—that they were responsible for the attacks on a range of security posts on 25 August. The events which have occurred subsequently are a matter of significant claim and counterclaim—

Unidentified speaker: Really? You're going there?

Mr Green : and, although there are very disturbing reports—

Senator McKIM: To say the least, Mr Green!

Mr Green : in the absence of the result of the fact-finding mission, we have no way of precisely understanding what has occurred.

Senator DI NATALE: So people are fleeing to Bangladesh because nothing is going on there?

Senator Brandis: That's not what he said.

Senator DI NATALE: That's utterly remarkable!

Senator McKIM: There are over 400,000 people—

CHAIR: Please don't verbal the officers.

Senator McKIM: I haven't verballed anyone, and neither has Senator Di Natale. Over 400,000 Rohingyans have fled across the border in the last two months. You would agree with that number, Mr Green, wouldn't you?

Mr Green : Yes.

Senator McKIM: Holidays? Why are they doing it? They're doing it because they've been brutally displaced from their homelands. For the department to suggest here that, in fact, there's not enough evidence to condemn the Myanmar military and/or the Myanmar government, beggars belief—it beggars belief.

Senator Brandis: You just heard what the foreign minister said in New York.

Senator McKIM: She did not condemn either the Myanmar military or the Myanmar government.

Senator Brandis: Her words could hardly have been stronger or clearer, Senator McKim.

Senator McKIM: They could certainly—

Senator Brandis: You're trying to confect a dispute over nothing.

Senator McKIM: Can I ask this then—let's just assess this very calmly: does DFAT accept that attacks have been made on Rohingyan people by government forces?

Mr Green : In all likelihood, yes.

Senator McKIM: In fact, you do accept that they've been made, because the foreign minister's statement confirms that they've been made. That's true, isn't it? She said:

We cannot condone attacks by government forces.

Mr Green : Yes.

Senator McKIM: So, in fact, you do accept that they've been made, don't you, Mr Green?

Mr Green : That is part of the overall complex of events in northern Rakhine State, yes.

Senator McKIM: If you accept that the attacks were made by the Myanmar government forces, why has the foreign minister not condemned those attacks?

Mr Green : The engagement we have with the Myanmar government—and publicly—is designed to demonstrate clearly the government's very deep concern for what has occurred in Rakhine State. Until full understanding of what has occurred is undertaken by an operation such as the UN fact-finding mission, that is the correct position for the government to take. On numerous occasions the government has indicated its very deep concern at events and has indicated directly to the government in Myanmar our concern that security forces operate within normal international rules and tolerances.

Senator McKIM: Mr Green, the problem I have with your evidence is that when I first asked why the government had not condemned—

Senator IAN MACDONALD: Do you have a question?

Senator McKIM: Yes, I do have a question—and what are you doing here? Aren't you trying to run interference for Minister Cash?

CHAIR: Come on; stay focused, Senator McKim.

Senator McKIM: Mr Green, the problem I have with the evidence you've given in the last few minutes is, when I first raised the issue of the foreign minister's failure to condemn attacks by government forces, you ran an argument that you didn't think there was evidence that supported attacks.

Mr Green : I didn't say that.

Senator Brandis: He didn't say that.

Senator McKIM: I'm going to review the—

Mr Green : I said that there is claim and counterclaim.

Senator McKIM: That's right—

Mr Green : Excuse me, Senator; you were trying to link the role of ARSA attacks and the role of government forces. ARSA has itself taken responsibility for the attacks which occurred on 25 August. In relation to the events that have occurred since, there is substantial claim and counterclaim.

Senator McKIM: Does DFAT, or does DFAT not, accept that government forces have attacked Rohingyan people in Rakhine State?

Mr Green : In all likelihood, yes.

Senator McKIM: I'm confused about the words 'in all likelihood', because, if that's DFAT's position, why did you advise the foreign minister to be so unequivocal in her statement, where she said:

We cannot condone attacks by government forces. Violence is never a solution.

She didn't say, 'We cannot condone possible attacks or likely attacks'; she said, 'We cannot condone attacks.' That's a clear indication, is it not, that DFAT accepts that attacks on Rohingyan people in Rakhine State by Myanmar security forces have occurred.

Mr Green : It's a clear indication that in all likelihood that is true and that abuses have occurred, yes.

Senator McKIM: So, if something's only likely, your advice to the foreign minister is that she should be totally unequivocal in her statement and simply refer to 'attacks', not 'likely attacks'?

Mr Green : I'm sorry, could you repeat the question?

Senator McKIM: Yes. If DFAT has a view that attacks are occurring in all likelihood, as you've just said, why did you advise the foreign minister to not use words such as, 'We cannot condone the likely attacks by government forces'? Why, in fact, did you advise the foreign minister to be totally unequivocal in her statement and say, 'We cannot condone attacks by government forces'?

Mr Green : Because there is an amount of evidence , much of it plausible, that there have been attacks by security forces as well as a range of other actors in northern Rakhine state.

Senator McKIM: If, as you say, the department's position is that in all likelihood Myanmar security forces have attacked Rohingya people in Rakhine state, why have you not advised the foreign minister to condemn such attacks?

Mr Green : We thought the appropriate language—and I think it's unequivocal what the intention of the Minister's statement was—was to say that attacks by security forces could not be condoned. We thought that appropriate under the circumstances.

Senator McKIM: So on what basis did you advise the foreign minister to 'condemn' the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army but use language lower down the hierarchy we were speaking about earlier by saying, 'We cannot condone attacks'?

Mr Green : Because the role of ARSA is undisputed.

Senator McKIM: In fact, very clearly, Mr Green, in the foreign minister's view, the Myanmar government has attacked people, because she said in her statement: 'We cannot condone attacks by government forces. Violence is never a solution '

Mr Green : I agree that it was right that she said that we cannot condone attacks.

Senator DI NATALE: Can I just be clear: are you disputing the attacks on the Rohingya people? Is that what this debate is about?

Mr Green : We're not disputing that. I'm not disputing anything. I'm saying that there is a lack of direct information. That is why we have sought to support a UN fact-finding mission. There is a claim—

Senator DI NATALE: So you don't accept—

Mr Green : There is a claim—

CHAIR: Can Mr Green finish, please, Senator?

Senator DI NATALE: Sure.

Mr Green : There is claim and counterclaim in relation to what has happened in northern Rakhine state. We are very much aware that much of the claim involves the role of ethnic Rakhine vigilantes, as well as the security forces of the Myanmar government. Under those circumstances, it seemed appropriate for us to recommend to the minister that she say, as she has done, that attacks by security forces could not be condoned.

Senator DI NATALE: But I just want to get your view really clearly, because what we've got from you so far is that you're absolutely clear about the attacks on the army but there's some contention about whether, in fact, the Rohingya themselves have been the subject of violence, and you're contending that that is in dispute—that there is claim and counterclaim.

Mr Green : To this point, the government of Myanmar have indeed disputed that, although they have established—

Senator DI NATALE: I'm asking what your view is, not what the government of Myanmar's view is.

Mr Green : In the absence of a proper fact-finding mission, it's impossible for me to have a settled view about precisely what has occurred.

Senator DI NATALE: So you don't have a view about whether the Rohingya people are being attacked and slaughtered, villages burnt—you have no view on that?

CHAIR: The officer has answered the question—

Mr Green : I do have a view.

CHAIR: Excuse me, Mr Green. The officer has answered these different phrasings of the same question for quite a time now.

Senator DI NATALE: It's a fundamental point, though. This is absolutely fundamental.

CHAIR: Thank you. Senator Moore has been waiting for a long time to ask questions, as have other senators, on this issue.

Senator DI NATALE: Again, Mr Green, just to be clear about the department's view, the attacks on the military are not in dispute and are unequivocal, but you don't have a clear, firm, settled view about whether we are seeing attacks on the Rohingya people? Is that a fair representation?

CHAIR: I don't think that's a fair representation—

Senator DI NATALE: I'm asking Mr Green.

CHAIR: It might be best if you look at the Hansard once it's out and actually seek further clarification on notice, because we've got—

Senator DI NATALE: Mr Green, can you just answer that final question?

CHAIR: Senator Di Natale!

Senator Seselja: He has answered that question several times.

CHAIR: He has answered it several times.

Senator MOORE: There are a couple of final questions from us around the issue in Myanmar relating to Woodside having a third gas discovery off Rakhine state frontier in Myanmar on 14 August. Can the department tell us what Australian companies have operations in this area? Is there any support being sought by these companies in terms of their own safety, the safety of their personnel, the safety of their investment? Has there been any impact on the activities—it's mainly mining, as we know. Is there any particular process from the government to ensure that companies or their employees are not involved in the crisis, either as victims or as perpetrators?

Mr Green : I don't have a comprehensive answer to that question. I'm conscious that members of my team discuss these issues with Australian corporates from time to time.

Senator MOORE: Can we put those on notice then, Mr Green. They're questions that we haven't put to you in the number of briefings which the department has provided to people in this place. I want to put on record our appreciation for the number of briefings that DFAT has provided in response to genuine interest in this parliament around all these issues. So can I put that on record. If you could get us a response to that from the whole position of the Woodside company and any other Australian companies that may have activity there. That would be very useful.

Mr Green : We will get back to you with what we can.

Senator MOORE: Sure. I understand that.

Mr Green : You will conscious that some of these issues may be commercial in confidence. I wouldn't want to break confidentiality—

Senator MOORE: We're all too familiar with that here, Mr Green. Just on another point on the range of issues that we've just had: certainly, a lot of the statements suggest that people in the community are not particularly clear on things that the foreign minister has said. I'm just wondering, from the department's point of view, and also from the government's point of view, Minister, whether, in fact, the media coverage of the foreign minister's statements has been as extensive as one would hope. Certainly, this statement, this speech, is available if you go to the DFAT webpage. Not everybody has the joy of exploring the DFAT web page. This kind of statement, I think, is a very strong statement and probably the strongest one that we've had. I don't believe, from my own reading—and we've been following this really closely here—that this degree of commentary has been out there in the community. So I'm just seeing whether, when you review the media coverage of things, that's something that you feel.

Ms Adamson : Thanks very much for that comment. It's always hard to know. One feels one's putting messages out there consistently and clearly. Of course, to some extent, it depends on how they're received. The department has received quite a number of media inquiries. We've been at pains to respond to those as fully as we are able to. This situation is ongoing. We will continue to seek to ensure that Australia's views are conveyed or are understood in the public domain as widely as possible.

CHAIR: Senator Macdonald, you had a quick question on this topic?

Senator IAN MACDONALD: Ms Adamson, as you know, I recently attended the Inter-Parliamentary Union Conference in St Petersburg, where this matter came up. That's a conference of parliamentarians, not of governments, so it's not particularly relevant to the government and the foreign minister as such, although, it was the subject of a major debate. In the course of that, there was an indication that the UN had set up a committee to go in and find out exactly what is happening. It had the information. Initially, that proposal had been refused by the Myanmar government. Subsequently, in the IPU conference, the Myanmar government people indicated that that United Nations fact-finding commission had been, or would be, allowed to enter the country for that purpose. Can you elaborate, confirm or qualify that information about the UN fact-finding commission?

Mr Green : I think it's fair to say the UN fact-finding mission has only just begun its work. Negotiations with the government of Myanmar are ongoing. We and a number of other governments have made repeated representation to the government of Myanmar to allow the fact-finding mission access—unfettered access—to northern Rakhine state. My understanding, Senator, is that those discussions are still ongoing.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: You're not aware that the Myanmar government has agreed to the fact-finding mission?

Mr Green : I'm not aware that they've agreed to the full and unfettered access that the UN fact-finding mission would prefer to have.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: I understood from the Myanmar parliamentarians there—and, again, I emphasise that these are parliamentarians, not governments—that access as requested by the UN had been agreed and was starting to happen. But you say that, perhaps, it is not unfettered?

Mr Green : I don't believe that the UN fact-finding mission has yet entered Myanmar.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: Should I ask you to take that on notice and check? Or is your information very recent?

Mr Green : I'm very happy to check that.

Ms Adamson : We can come back this afternoon.

CHAIR: That would be great.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: There's another thing I want to raise with you—and I'm conscious of questions of other seniors. The Myanmar parliamentarians who were at this conference I was talking about were indicating that many of the attacks by the Myanmar military were in response to terrorists—what they call terrorist attacks; I'm not saying that this is correct; I'm just saying what we were told—and that there were other ethnic groups in Rakhine state who were also being attacked by an element within the Rakhine state which wasn't the military. The suggestion was that the military and the government of Myanmar, with Aung San Suu Kyi, were trying to protect other groups and civilians in Myanmar. Now, again, I don't proffer that as an accurate statement of what is happening, but I ask you the question: is that what you understand to be the official response of, I think, the democratically elected Myanmar government?

Mr Green : That is certainly part of the official response of the Myanmar government. As I said, there is much claim and counterclaim—a lot that is in dispute. The Myanmar government would certainly indicate that there are a number of actors involved here, including the ARSA, which derives from the Rohingya community, and including the ethnic Rakhine population and including the Myanmar security forces—whom the Myanmar government would characterise as mostly responding to attacks which are upon them and undertaking clearance operations.

CHAIR: Thanks for that. If you could just double-check—

Mr Green : We will come back to you on the precise situation of the UN fact-finding mission.

Senator McKIM: I just acknowledge to my colleagues that I've had a good run.

CHAIR: Yes—you've had a good run.

Senator McKIM: I will attempt to—

CHAIR: Hopefully getting to the finish line soon.

Senator McKIM: Yes, hopefully so—and I believe so. Mr Green, I want to try and settle something and make it clear in my mind. This is the continuation of our previous conversation. Is it settled in DFAT's collective mind that the Myanmar security forces have engaged in attacks on Rohingyan people? Or do you believe that that matter is yet to be settled?

CHAIR: That is the same question, Senator. I did warn you that you had rephrased it several times. Senator Di Natale has given it a good crack at rephrasing.

Senator McKIM: It's still not clear to me what—

CHAIR: The officers have answered. You might not like their answer.

Senator DI NATALE: It's a different question, Senator McKenzie.

CHAIR: It's actually not a different question.

Senator DI NATALE: It is a different question.

CHAIR: I have ruled that it is the same question.

Senator DI NATALE: This is the last opportunity to ask this question.

CHAIR: I'm ruling that it is the same question. You're asking DFAT's perspective—

Senator McKIM: Yes.

CHAIR: which you have done for over 48 minutes now. Do you have another aspect of the Myanmar issue that you would like to—

Senator McKIM: No, Chair. I wish to pursue this line of questioning.

CHAIR: Okay. Well, officers, you can answer as you see fit.

Mr Green : Thank you, Chair. I think there is something I can add to this.

Senator McKIM: Thank you, Mr Green.

Mr Green : The government of Myanmar presents the activities of the Tatmadaw as security clearance operations and doesn't dispute that violence is involved in those security operations. It describes what is going on now as the Tatmadaw only responding when specifically attacked—security operations having, largely, ended. But the government of Myanmar has rejected the allegation that their forces are involved in substantial attacks on Rohingya populations, although, as I've said, they have recently constituted a military led inquiry into whether abuses have occurred in Rakhine state.

We don't doubt that abuses have occurred in Rakhine State and, in all likelihood, that has involved security attacks upon Rohingya populations. But the situation is complex; it's subject to claim and counterclaim to many things in dispute, and there are a number of actors involved, not just the Tatmadaw.

Senator McKIM: Thank you.

CHAIR: Anything further on Myanmar?

Senator McKIM: Yes, there is, thank you.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: I understand that Aung San Suu Kyi is your hero—

Senator McKIM: Sorry, that noted defender of human rights in the Senate, Senator Macdonald, is mumbling away. I did it quite hear what he said—

CHAIR: Just proceed.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: Well, if you didn't, I thought you were a great protector of Aung San Suu Kyi?

Senator McKIM: I'm very disappointed in her recent failings—

Senator IAN MACDONALD: I find all your speeches in the Senate—

Senator McKIM: and I believe the Australian government should be pressing that far more strongly than it has, since you've asked, Senator Macdonald. I wanted to ask: is it right that we have an autonomous sanctions regime in relation to Myanmar?

Mr Green : We have defence sanctions on Myanmar, so, yes.

Senator McKIM: Is that part of Australia's autonomous—is that what it's called? An autonomous sanctions regime?

Mr Green : We would normally describe it as a regime of sanctions on defence activities.

Senator McKIM: Yes. Were sanctions reduced in 2012?

Mr Green : I don't know the exact dates, but that sounds right.

Senator McKIM: Thank you. I understand that you said the sanctions are at least in part military in nature, which I acknowledge is a different department. But to DFAT's knowledge, what sanctions currently remain in place in relation to Myanmar?

Mr Larsen : I can confirm that an arms embargo remains in place in relation to the supply of arms to Myanmar.

Senator McKIM: Yes. Is that all? Is that the only sanction?

Mr Larsen : That is correct, yes.

Senator McKIM: An arms embargo. Is DFAT aware of how many ADF personal are currently in Myanmar?

Mr Green : That would be a question for the department—

Senator McKIM: So, DFAT's not aware? Or you're not aware, at least, Mr Green. Mr Larsen, are you aware?

Mr Larsen : No, I'm not, Senator.

Senator McKIM: Okay. Is DFAT aware that we do have an ADF military liaison person who liaises with the Myanmar military currently in Myanmar? Are you aware of that?

Mr Green : There is a defence attache, yes.

Senator McKIM: You work closely with Defence on issues such as this, I presume.

Mr Green : Yes.

Senator McKIM: The department does at a departmental level? Has there been any consideration, to the best of DFAT's knowledge, given to withdrawing Australia's military attache in Myanmar?

Mr Green : That would be a question for the Department of Defence. But as I've said before, a range of consultations happen in the context of interdepartmental committees to consider the correctness of our posture in relation to Myanmar across a wide range of areas.

Ms Adamson : If I could, perhaps, just add there in relation to defence attaches? Many of our embassies around the world have a defence attache presence as part of the embassy complement. Their role, of course, is to communicate with their counterparts in the armed forces of the countries of their accreditation. That means of communication can be used for a variety of purposes and, as we discussed earlier this morning—I'm not sure whether you were in the room—that can be used effectively to convey messages about conduct that go to the sorts of questions that you have been asking.

I would say, as secretary, that it's a valuable thing to have a defence attache in any embassy. I would say it's a particularly valuable thing to have one in our embassy in Myanmar at the moment. Thank you.

Senator McKIM: Has there been any consideration to increasing the sanctions on Myanmar from an arms embargo perhaps back to the pre-2012 sanctions, which I understand included targeted financial sanctions and travel bans?

Mr Green : As I said, our posture in relation to the military in Myanmar remains under constant review.

Senator McKIM: What would need to happen for DFAT to recommend an increase in sanctions?

Mr Green : That's a hypothetical question which—

Senator McKIM: It certainly is.

Mr Green : I don't feel able to assist you with.

Senator McKIM: Perhaps I can couch it in a slightly different way. I'm happy to withdraw my previous question. Is it an issue of the level of certainty that you have around whether or not the Myanmar security forces have in fact engaged in human rights abuses against Rohingya people or is it the scale of what's occurred that would be a determining factor?

Mr Green : You're asking me to go to future knowledge and then to extrapolate from that what an Australian policy response might be. I don't feel able to provide evidence to this committee which would be valuable on that matter.

CHAIR: Thank you.

Senator McKIM: The department can take this on notice.

CHAIR: I'm sure they can take it on notice, Senator McKim.

Senator McKIM: I want to know: to the best of the department's awareness, how many Australian companies currently have investments in Rakhine State, including the Rakhine Basin. And, if there are companies, who are they and to what extent do they have people or assets on the ground in either Rakhine State or Rakhine Basin?

CHAIR: Thank you, Senator McKim. That finishes Myanmar. On to another topic.

Senator DI NATALE: I've got some questions about DFAT's promotion of foreign financial contribution to the Adani Group's projects in the Galilee Basin. I understand that, in response to a freedom of information request, DFAT's identified several hundred pages of documents that relate to ministers and officials seeking foreign financing for the Adani Group's coal projects in Queensland. Can you please give me a sense of the types of the representations that ministers and officials have made relating to the Adani Group's Galilee Basin projects?

Ms Adamson : I've got my colleague Kathy Klugman next to me, but let me start by saying that we obviously, as you would expect, treat all FOI requests in a very thorough way. But the fact that there is a significant number of documents that we've identified for review should not be read to imply that there is a significant amount of departmental activities. Let me just say that at the outset. Would you mind repeating the second part of the question?

Senator DI NATALE: It was really just about the types of representations that have occurred where ministers and officials have made representations relating to the Adani Group's projects.

Senator Brandis: You're making some assumptions there. Perhaps I can take that question and respond to you in this way: as you know, the government welcomes investment in Australia—particularly investment that supports the government's plans for the development of northern Australia. In the case of the Adani Group Carmichael mine project, the government has made representations to dispel the misinformation campaign of those from the radical left who want to stop the project. The Australian government has written to the government of China to confirm that the project has received all necessary Queensland state government and Australian government environmental and mining approvals. The government has expressed support for the opening up of the Galilee Basin and the Adani Group mine's capacity to unlock that development. The Australian's government's support for this project is, by the way, also echoed by the Queensland Labor government, which recognises the potential the project has for employment in the region.

The Adani company has met with Australian ministers and Australia's high commission in India to provide updates, including on financing. Any investment in the project will be subject to the usual scrutiny through the FIRB process. The Australian government continues to welcome foreign investment that is in our national interests, including the Adani investment in the Carmichael mine project.

Senator DI NATALE: Let me be more specific: have any requests for financial assistance been made of any type?


Senator DI NATALE: No; from DFAT on behalf of, for example, foreign banks or other investment agencies.

Ms Adamson : No. DFAT's role has been accurately characterised by the Attorney.

Senator DI NATALE: So the representation that's been made has been limited to advocacy for the project, but there has been no representation made with regard to obtaining foreign finance?

Ms Adamson : It has not been DFAT's role to seek finance for the project. But, as the senator says, a letter has been written to explain the status of the project. There's nothing more that I can add to that.

Senator DI NATALE: Has a request for any other support been made by DFAT?

Ms Adamson : Sorry? A request by DFAT to who?

Senator DI NATALE: To international investment finance organisations.

Ms Adamson : Not that I'm aware of, no.

Senator DI NATALE: Have any assurances about the level of public support provided by the Australian government been given?

Ms Adamson : Not that I'm aware of. But, as this matter crosses a number of portfolios, I'll take that on notice.

Senator DI NATALE: Has Adani made any request of DFAT with regard to the advocacy that DFAT has offered internationally?

Ms Adamson : I'll take that on notice. You were asking a very specific question, and I want to check before I answer it. I may be able to come back to you this afternoon. If I can do that, I will.

Senator DI NATALE: So you are not aware if Adani has requested any support from the Australian government—any lobbying; any advocacy of any sort?

Ms Adamson : I'm not aware. I will check with Ms Klugman.

Ms Klugman : As the secretary said, the department, including through our high commission in Delhi, has stayed in occasional contact with the Adani company for updates on the progress of the project. On any specific requests from the Adani company to the Australian government for specific pieces of advocacy, as the secretary said, we will have to take that on notice. As you know, the government's position of support for this development has been repeated, including publicly, many times by representatives of the government.

Senator DI NATALE: Just to be clear: were those letters that Senator Brandis referred to, effectively advocating for the proposal, written at the request of the Adani company?

Senator Brandis: Senator, I didn't refer to letters; I referred to a letter written by the Australian government to the Chinese government to confirm the project has received all necessary Queensland state government and Australian government environmental and mining approvals. So that's not advocacy; that is informing the Chinese government of certain facts.

Senator DI NATALE: Was that at Adani's request that that letter was sent?

Senator Brandis: I don't know.

Ms Adamson : We'll get back to you on that, Senator. But I would expect so, because a letter setting out the status of the project would have been generated as a result of a perceived need for that, I expect. But I will come back to you on that after the lunch break.

Senator LAMBIE: Maybe you can enlighten me—why do you need to let the Chinese government know that you are approving all the environmental approvals. Does this have to do with money being lent by the Chinese? Is this a protocol matter where you let the Chinese government know in your letter what is going on with the environmental procedure—what's the rationale behind that?

Senator Brandis: I don't have the letter to hand, Senator—

Senator LAMBIE: That's okay. If you can tell me the rationale.

Senator Brandis: I'm not in a position to answer your question beyond telling you, as I've told Senator Di Natale, that the letter, as I'm advised, merely confirms certain facts.

Senator DI NATALE: Did the letter also include information about public support for the mine?

Senator Brandis: I don't have the letter, Senator.

Senator DI NATALE: Could we have that letter tabled?

Ms Adamson : I don't have the letter, Senator.

Senator DI NATALE: Are you prepared to table that letter?

Senator Brandis: We will take your request on notice and see if we can help you.

Senator DI NATALE: Have ministers or officials had conversations with any foreign officials, beyond the letter that you describe, where they have indicated that the project has all the necessary approvals or that the project would proceed?

Ms Adamson : Again, Senator, not that I'm aware of. Senator Brandis has mentioned a single letter. I said in response to your earlier question that the fact that there are a number of documents identified for review shouldn't be read to imply there's been a significant amount of departmental activity. In fact, my understanding is that there has not been a significant amount of departmental activity.

Senator DI NATALE: I'm also asking for any correspondence, any meetings or conversations with foreign officials beyond the letter that's been described. Could you take that on notice?

Ms Adamson : I will, Senator.

Senator Brandis: Perhaps, just to state the obvious—the position of the Australian government here and, although obviously I don't speak for it, the position of the Queensland government couldn't be more clear and transparent. The Australian government and the Queensland government support the development of this mine and support this project and Adani's efforts to undertake it.

Senator DI NATALE: Has any representation been made about funding by the NAIF? I'm asking if in any of the correspondence—obviously, we have the letter that Senator Brandis says he will consider tabling—but beyond that letter, in other conversations or other correspondence, has any representation been made around whether a loan from the NAIF might proceed?

Senator Brandis: Well, I can't imagine so, Senator, because no decision has been made by the NAIF and—

Senator DI NATALE: I can imagine it, which is why I'm asking the question.

Senator Brandis: to the best of my knowledge no application has been made to the NAIF, though I may be wrong about that. This isn't my portfolio. Given that no decision has been made in that regard by the NAIF, I can't imagine why any letter would indicate that.

Senator DI NATALE: Does any of the correspondence include information about Efic and any support that might be provided in the form of loans, insurance, et cetera?

Senator Brandis: As I say, Senator, I'm not aware of any such correspondence, beyond the single letter about which I've got some information. What I've said to you is that we will take on notice your request—may we take it compendiously to be a request—to examine what, if any, correspondence there is in relation to the matter, without conceding that there is, in fact, any correspondence beyond the one letter about which I have instructions.

Senator DI NATALE: I have a small number of questions on a related topic, but not the same topic. I understand we've probably got five minutes before we break and so perhaps I'll use the five minutes to ask those questions. I know Senator Xenophon and others have questions on this, and I will hand over to them once I have finished my five questions. On the PM's recent visit to Samoa for the Pacific Islands Forum, media records indicate that he did discuss climate change with Pacific leaders, is that correct?

Ms Adamson : I will invite colleague who was present at the South Pacific Forum to join us at the table.

Senator DI NATALE: No doubt he indicated that he understood the threat of climate change to Pacific Island countries?

Mr Sloper : At the Pacific Islands Forum, climate change is one of a number of issues discussed by leaders, both with what we call CROP agencies—the technical agencies in the region—and privately when the leaders meet. I don't have a record of that meeting, as it is leaders only in the room, but I know that the leaders did discuss climate for some time. It was also reflected in the communique issued by the leaders. Part of that discussion was focused on how the region should respond, including through cooperation using technical agency support, through work on the framework for a resilient partnership—which is an agreement within the Pacific on how we build resilience—and on individual actions countries may be taking. On our part, the Prime Minister, I'm sure, would have spoken about, but I cannot confirm, our commitment to the region, which has stood for some time to support resilience and research in the region.

Senator DI NATALE: On the representations that were made to the Prime Minister on behalf of Pacific Island leaders, did they specifically reference the issue of climate change? Did they make any specific requests of the Australian government?

Mr Sloper : I wouldn't characterise them as representations, but more as a forum in which the range of leaders were talking and discussing issues. The one I sat in on was with senior representatives—the heads of each technical agency in the region—which included the South Pacific Regional Environment Programme, the Forum Fisheries Agency, the Pacific community, which does statistical scientific work on issues like climate change. They had a discussion on a range of issues they wanted leaders to consider, and climate change was one of those issues and it focused on how we take action to address that challenge.

Senator DI NATALE: The Tuvalu Prime Minister Enele Sopoaga recently said that Australia 'is stuck in the Dark Ages' with its reliance on dirty fossil fuels and that this is bad news for the Pacific. Were those views expressed by other Pacific Island leaders and officials in the meetings, at which Australian government was present? And if so, how did we respond?

Mr Sloper : As I said, the leaders meet privately with only themselves in the room. There is no formal record. That's a particular feature of the Pacific Islands Forum and so I can't comment on what discussions were held within that forum. I'm aware of Prime Minister Sopoaga's comments. He didn't have a separate formal bilateral with the Prime Minister and so there wouldn't have been an opportunity to exchange views on climate change.

Senator DI NATALE: Prime Minister Sopoaga also said publicly that Australia's mining of coal was—I think his words were—'extremely disappointing'. Have any of the Pacific Island leaders, either at that forum or at other times, raised concerns about Adani's Carmichael coalmine? And if so, what is the nature of those concerns and representation were made to either DFAT officials or the minister?

Mr Sloper : I can talk about the Pacific Islands Forum context first and then I'll talk more broadly. Prime Minister Sopoaga's views are well known. I'm not aware of him making direct representations to our Prime Minister on that issue. With regard to the Adani project, I have a colleague next to me who has just attended the pre-COP in Suva—there may have been additional discussions there that he may be able to comment on.

Senator DI NATALE: Did you want to add to that, Mr Suckling?

Mr Suckling : No such representations on the Adani coalmine were made at pre-COP.

Senator DI NATALE: What about at any other stage? Have you received any representation or correspondence from any Pacific Island leaders regarding the Adani mine?

Mr Sloper : I'm not aware of any correspondence from leaders in the Pacific specifically on the Adani mine.

Senator DI NATALE: No approaches?

Mr Sloper : I'm sure our action to meet our emissions target is discussed from time to time at officials' level. We confirm with our counterparts that Australia will meet its target, and it's for each country to determine how to achieve that. I'm not aware of specific recommendations in regard to the Adani coalmine.

Senator DI NATALE: Let me ask this directly: have any Pacific Island leaders urged the Australian government not to proceed with the mine?

Mr Sloper : I'm not aware of any representation, Senator.

Senator DI NATALE: Not just representations—has there been any forum or any context in which Pacific Island leaders have urged Australia not to proceed with the Adani mine?

Mr Sloper : I can take that on record, if you wish, but I am not aware of any specific request of that nature.

Senator XENOPHON: Attorney, you said in an opening statement on this that the Commonwealth through its diplomatic missions, as I understand it, made representations to dispel the misrepresentations about the Adani project. Are you able to provide us, or can the department provide us, with details of those representations that were referred to and the context of those representations?

Senator Brandis: We'll take that on notice, Senator. The only example of which I have any information is the one letter to the Chinese government, which I've referred to. I don't know if there were any others, but, in any event, we will inquiry.

Ms Adamson : I am not aware, either, that there was anything other than that letter, although Ms Klugman may want to talk about it from an Indian perspective, given the regular contact that she referred to earlier between—

Senator XENOPHON: Given what the Attorney said quite openly, could we get copies of those letters and the associated documents in respect of that.

Senator Brandis: Certainly, but I want to stress, Senator, that the government's position of support for the Adani mine is very publicly known and, as the officers have said, from time to time there have been dealings with the High Commission in New Delhi and the company to basically update the situation. So, presumably, the government's support for what Adani proposes to do is generally known in India.

CHAIR: Thank you. And with that, the committee will suspend for lunch.

Proceedings suspended from 12:31 to 13:31

CHAIR: We will reconvene. I know the Attorney-General is on his way. Secretary, you had some clarifications you wanted to provide the committee in the meantime?

Ms Adamson : If that's agreeable to everyone. Earlier today Senator Kitching asked whether Australia's regulations concerning the sanctioning of DPRK vessels had been registered. The answer is that they were registered on 5 July this year and appear on the Federal Register of Legislation. Senator Wong asked that we table a document setting out Australia's autonomous DPRK sanctions implemented earlier this year. We table a document which does this covering amendments to the sanctions regime in July and August this year. Thank you.

Senator WONG: Could I have one follow-up? Does that mean we would now have, with a question on notice about which I was asking questions and this, a full list of all the sanctions that Australia is engaged in with respect to the DPRK? If not, can I have them in a document?

Mr Larsen : Yes, you can. I will give you some more material, because there are also some sanctions that have been implemented pursuant to the security council resolution regime.

Senator WONG: Mr Larsen, could you do a consolidated document so we can look at one thing that says, 'This is the state of Australia's sanctions, unilateral and multilateral, against the DPRK?' That would be best.

Mr Larsen : We'll have that to you very shortly.

Senator WONG: Thank you very much.

CHAIR: All right. We're all up to date, Ms Adamson?

Ms Adamson : We are.

Senator Brandis: May I make a short statement, please?


Senator Brandis: I want to add to an answer I gave before the luncheon adjournment in response to questions from Senator McKim. I said I wasn't aware of Adani having sought funding from the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility. Adani has sought funding from the NAIF for its multi-user rail project linking the Carmichael mine with the port of Abbot Point. Investment decisions under the NAIF are made by an independent board. The government is not involved in those decisions. It's entirely a matter for that board as to what the decision would be. I'm advised the NAIF board is yet to make a decision in relation to the funding application.

CHAIR: Thank you, Attorney. We'll go to questions. Senator Xenophon.

Senator XENOPHON: This is following on from the questions before the lunch break. I looked at the response to the FI. Documents have come back saying there were several hundred pages of documents. If there wasn't substantial work on this going on in the department—I'm just trying to understand this in the context of the FOI request saying, 'The department sought extension time due to the complexity and volume as your request has captured several hundred pages of documents.' Does that mean, Ms Adamson, that there has been a fair bit of work done in relation to this through DFAT and through Australia's diplomatic missions?

Ms Adamson : No, it doesn't.

Senator XENOPHON: Can you tell me what it does mean? Can you enlighten me?

Mr Larsen : The FOI process is currently in train. It's been the subject of one extension of time, and a further extension of time has been requested. So the reference to substantial searches covers various posts and various offices, and potentially a large number of documents have been looked at. That doesn't mean that a large number of documents are necessarily relevant.

Senator XENOPHON: Although reference is made to several hundred pages of documents. I'm trying to understand how those documents fell within the scope of the request.

Mr Larsen : The request is currently underway. I don't have visibility of the particularl documents that the reviewer is looking at, but my understanding is that there are several hundred pages of documents potentially—

Senator XENOPHON: What search terms were used in the context of this?

Mr Larsen : I don't know the answer to that.

Senator XENOPHON: If you could take that on notice.

Ms Adamson : The original request was very broad. It would've been unmanageable. We've been seeking to narrow the scope of the request, and that process is underway. But I can say to you, for the avoidance of all doubt, that this does not indicate a great deal of activity on the department's part at all.

Senator XENOPHON: Thank you. I understand Senator Brandis's unequivocal statements of the government's support for the Adani project, and that's well known. This letter to the Chinese government hasn't been well known. I understand that that will be tabled or provided in due course. Are you able to table that now or not?

Ms Adamson : We said we'd take that question on notice.

Senator XENOPHON: So you are not committing to tabling that?

Ms Adamson : No, I'm not committing to that.

Senator XENOPHON: Why not?

Ms Adamson : Because the letter, as I understand it—and I don't have a copy myself—has a couple of signatories, and there needs to be a consultation. It's not that we're not willing to, but it's not within my remit to say, yes, we can.

Senator XENOPHON: I understand. Can you tell me which part of the Chinese government was written to and at what level?

Ms Adamson : I think but would need to check that it was the National Development and Reform Commission. The chairman is He Lifeng, as I recall.

Senator XENOPHON: I am trying to understand. Why did the department see fit to write to the Chinese government about publicly available information about approvals? And was this the only information or request in that letter?

Ms Adamson : The letter was not written by the department.

Senator XENOPHON: Sorry. In terms of the correspondence, you're saying that the department didn't write the letter? It was written by the Australian government. Who wrote the letter to the Chinese government?

Ms Adamson : It was not written by the department.

Senator XENOPHON: Okay, so you'll take on notice who wrote that letter and the content of that letter.

Ms Adamson : Yes.

Senator XENOPHON: Is it unusual, given your experience, for the Australian government to write to foreign governments with information about planning approvals?

Ms Adamson : It's not in my experience unusual for the Chinese to seek a formal expression of what we might regard as publicly available information.

Senator XENOPHON: And were similar letters written to other countries?

Ms Adamson : No.

Senator XENOPHON: Only to China.

Ms Adamson : As far as I'm aware, yes.

Senator XENOPHON: Was the letter from the minister?

Ms Adamson : I can say the letter was written by the Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment and by the Deputy Prime Minister, stating as a matter of fact the points that the Attorney made this morning.

Senator LAMBIE: Is that because China has requested that? Is what I'm hearing correct? China approached us first?

Ms Adamson : My interpretation of what would have happened is that the Adani company will have themselves been assessing how they can fund the project. In the course of that assessment, I think they have looked at range of different sources. I think what they did was request a statement of fact, if you like, from the Australian government. Given the government's support for the project, ministers were happy to provide that. But it was a statement of fact—where the project is up to—and a statement of endorsement of support by the Australian government.

Senator LAMBIE: Will we be able to obtain that letter as well?

CHAIR: They have already taken it on notice.

Senator XENOPHON: Ms Adamson, is it unusual for letters to be going from the Deputy Prime Minister and the minister for trade—two very senior ministers—to a government agency, rather than their equivalents, equivalent ministers, sending to a board or an agency of another government?

Ms Adamson : No. In my 30-plus years experience, it's not unusual in the way you're suggesting.

Senator XENOPHON: We have NAIF turning up later today and I can ask them some specific technical questions. Do you see any role for the department to be involved in approaching import export banks associated with providing support for foreign suppliers in this project?

Senator Brandis: You say 'approaching'. Allowing for the fact that we haven't established what part or agency of the Chinese government this letter was directed to, the way it's been characterised in the instructions to me does not suggest it was an approach to any foreign government or agency, merely that it was the confirmation of certain facts—namely, that the project had received all necessary Queensland state government and Australian government environmental and mining approvals. Now, I've been provided with this information by the minister's office and that is as far as the description of this piece of correspondence goes. It doesn't really answer the description of an approach.

Senator XENOPHON: Thank you, Attorney, but it seems there may be anticipated requests for import export support from a foreign country for this project, and that raises all sorts of issues as to the priorities—

Senator Brandis: We haven't said that.

Senator XENOPHON: Is it anticipated?

Senator Brandis: I don't know the answer to your question. We haven't said that. That conclusion is not with respect a matter of fair inference from anything that has been said. But in any event—

Senator XENOPHON: I wasn't inferring; I was just asking a question.

Senator Brandis: The answer is we don't know. There is no reason to conclude or infer from what's been said that that is the case. But in any event, when we get to the trade part of the portfolio, it may be that there are witnesses at the table who are able to add to these answers.

Senator XENOPHON: Thank you.

Senator RICE: I want to start with LGBTIQ rights in the Asia-Pacific. There are 17 countries in the Asia-Pacific that still criminalise homosexuality with penalties, including imprisonment for life in Bangladesh and imprisonment for up to 20 years in Malaysia, for example. Is there an existing strategy of the Australian government to deal with bringing down this number?

Ms Wilde : Australia continues to advocate strongly for the human rights of LGBTI people across the world. We do that through a number of pathways—through the multilateral system, through the bilateral system and also through our membership of the Equal Rights Coalition. Our advocacy around LGBTI issues is also complemented by other work that we do—for example, on anti death penalty advocacy. As you know, there are around 13 states that still apply the death penalty for same-sex relations.

On the criminalisation of same-sex relations, we do also use the same mechanisms to prosecute or advance the agenda. We are in the process at the moment of developing a whole-of-government anti-death-penalty strategy, which will also then assist on those LGBTI issues.

Senator RICE: Where it's the death penalty, yes. So what resources is the department specifically putting towards the LGBTI criminalisation?

Ms Wilde : My area holds the policy responsibility on LGBTI advocacy internationally. We work with other departments across government—the Attorney-General's, for example. On a lot of human rights issues we work closely with desks to raise issues of concern in particular countries. While the team within the human rights branch is very small, we do draw on resources across the department and then across the whole government to take a leadership role in many respects on LGBTI issues.

Senator RICE: Can you give me any specific examples of lobbying activities or advocacy that you're doing with those countries to address a very concerning issue?

Ms Wilde : Sure. As I was coming up I missed whether you raised specific countries.

Senator RICE: Basically the Asia-Pacific, so Bangladesh, Bhutan, Brunei, India, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea—obviously very pertinent.

Ms Wilde : Daniel Sloper is here and might be able to answer some of those.

Mr McDonald : I might also be able to help add to that. The universal periodic reviews that we do through the Human Rights Council, that's where we'd raise those. As each of those countries comes forward with their universal periodic review, we'll talk about the need to improve the rights around LGBTI as part of that. So part of it is through our multilateral process, and we have done that for a whole range of countries over the last period of time as they have progressively come up. Of course, we'll also be doing that in the future as other countries come forward.

In addition to our bilateral programs, as you know, we've got the five pillars through our HRC pillars. We're continuing to very much be clear not only about the death penalty but also about the rights of LGBTI people across the world. So it's built into our bilateral program, through the work we do through our development work, and it's done at a multilateral level, through the broader work we do through the Human Rights Commission.

Senator RICE: I'll leave that there, given the time. I want to move onto Israel and Palestine. I understand that Prime Minister Turnbull is shortly going to be travelling to Beersheba to attend the 100th anniversary of the battle of Beersheba. I have read that he intends to raise the case of Malka Leifer, who is accused of abusing girls in her care, with the Israeli Prime Minister. What other issues is the Prime Minister intending to raise with the Israeli Prime Minister, and, in particular, whether he will be raising Australia's concerns with regard to the expansion of illegal settlements in occupied Palestine?

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

Senator RICE: Okay. What action is the department taking in raising the issue of illegal settlements in Palestine?

Mr Neuhaus : The department, through our representatives—through our own contact here with embassies through our embassy in Israel—has frequently raised the issue of illegal settlements.

Senator RICE: At what level have these concerns been raised?

Mr Neuhaus : They have been raised at the full range of levels over the years; it depends on the time period. We have raised them even at ministerial level.

Senator RICE: And what response have you got to those concerns? Have you raised particular announcements, such as the recent announcement of the 31 new apartments in the city of Hebron, the first time for 20 years that final approval has been given for a new settlement of Amihai, and then, just yesterday, the approval of a major expansion in east Jerusalem for 176 new housing units?

Mr Neuhaus : Yes, I'm very aware of that development, and we have indeed raised it with the deputy ambassador here.

Senator RICE: So what response have you got from the Israeli government?

Mr Neuhaus : Well, regrettably, settlements continue, so you might say that's the sort of response. But, in principle, they hear us out when we make those representations.

Senator RICE: In a recent official statement the Israeli government said: 'During 2017 approximately 12,000 housing units in different stages of planning and construction will be approved, about four times the amount in 2016.' It continued: 'There is nobody that does more for settlement, steadfastly and wisely, than Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.' Does this statement and sentiment concern the Australian government, and have you made representations about that statement?

Mr Neuhaus : These sorts of activities do concern us, because, as you know, and it's been reiterated today in the article foreshadowing the Prime Minister's visit, we're very committed to the two-state solution, and these sorts of activities do make that outcome more difficult.

Senator RICE: They completely undermine it. Is there anything more the Australian government could be doing?

Mr Neuhaus : We're doing all that we can, as far as I can see.

Senator RICE: Is the Australian government considering moving forward with the recognition of the state of Palestine, as a statement, that if—basically, the opportunity to recognise the state of Palestine is decreasing the more that settlements occur.

Mr Neuhaus : As I've said, we remain committed to the two-state solution, and we engage with both parties, and it is for them to negotiate that outcome. I am confident that that view will be reiterated by the Prime Minister when he visits both Prime Minister Netanyahu and Mr Abbas, as he's going to see him as well.

Senator RICE: Finally, I'm interested in Chinese human rights and, particularly, the treatment of Falun Gong practitioners, which I raised at estimates 12 months ago. I'm interested in knowing what representations the Australian government has made this year, in relation to human rights abuses by Falun Gong practitioners, and what the Chinese government's response has been, and what the response has been to the Senate motion, that was moved last November, asking the Australian government to consider making it an offence to travel overseas to receive an organ acquired from a non-consensual donor, and establishing a register of Australians travelling overseas to acquire organ transplants.

Mr Fletcher : We have raised human rights, in relation to Falun Gong, with China on a number of occasions. I'll have to take on notice the last time we raised it specifically in relation to Falun Gong. China's response to those representations has been to repudiate the notion that there are abuses going on. They regard any actions by the authorities against Falun Gong is of a lawful judicial nature and not as an abuse of human rights.

Senator KITCHING: I'd like to discuss New Zealand. When was DFAT first aware that Mr Joyce could be a citizen of New Zealand?

Mr Sloper : I became aware of this when I saw it in the news.

Senator KITCHING: The foreign minister gave a press conference on 15 August. Did DFAT have any contact with New Zealand's ambassador regarding Mr Joyce's citizenship?

Mr Sloper : I had no contact with the ambassador—or high commissioner, as he is titled—ahead of that press conference. Subsequently, in informal conversation, we referred to it but not in any direct way.

Senator KITCHING: Was DFAT involved in briefing the minister or the minister's office before she gave the press conference?

Mr Sloper : No.

Senator KITCHING: When were you aware the foreign minister was intending to hold this press conference?

Mr Sloper : I wasn't aware ahead of the press conference that it would occur.

Senator KITCHING: But you knew about it when she was—

Mr Sloper : I knew about it when I saw it reported in the media.

Senator KITCHING: So there was no consultation with the department.

Mr Sloper : There was no consultation with me. I can't speak for the department, but I wouldn't be surprised there was no consultation. It's not uncommon for the minister to choose to do press or media without consultation with us.

Senator KITCHING: Although it was before our relationship or it did go to matters that concerned our relationship with New Zealand.

Ms Adamson : No, Senator. Just to reiterate what Mr Sloper said, the department would not even normally, necessarily, be consulted ahead of press conferences. If they take place during the course of official visits overseas, then we would. They'd be programmed in, but, otherwise, those are decisions for her office to make.

Senator KITCHING: Senator Brandis, firstly, did the foreign minister speak with you before holding the press conference?

Senator Brandis: I recall speaking with the foreign minister about the subject, but I don't know when the press conference was, whether it was before or after. Regarding the press conference of which you speak, I'm not in a position to tell you.

Senator KITCHING: It was 15 August and it was the press conference where the foreign minister discussed the fact that New Zealand was facing an election and that it would be very hard to build trust with those involved in allegations designed to undermine the government of Australia. It was that press conference. You did speak with her on the subject matter, but—

Senator Brandis: I recall being in conversations with the foreign minister about the matter because it was the political event du jour when it happened for a couple of days. But, as to the sequence of events, I'm not in a position to tell you because I don't remember.

Senator KITCHING: Are you aware of whether the foreign minister spoke with any other ministers?

Senator Brandis: That's a question you'd have to ask the foreign minister.

Senator KITCHING: Can you take it on notice?

Senator Brandis: Yes.

Senator KITCHING: Thank you. Even though you didn't know about the press conference, Mr Sloper and Ms Adamson, were you asked to prepare any speaking points around the subject matters that were raised in that press conference?

Mr Sloper : No. We routinely provide issue speaking points, if you like, for potential opportunities, but we didn't provide any input for these particular issues.

Senator KITCHING: Thank you.

Mr Sloper : I would just add that, if we do provide points, it doesn't necessarily mean they're drawn on. It's standard practice, as—

Senator KITCHING: No—or used. More is the pity sometimes. I want to go to the relationship, the substantive matter. Does the department agree that it will be very hard to build trust—and those were the foreign minister's words—with the New Zealand Labour Party?

Mr Sloper : No. I think New Zealand has a very strong relationship with Australia and that's reflected in the fact that already the Prime Minister has rung his counterpart and had a good discussion, and I'm sure they'll meet soon, and, equally, our foreign minister has also spoken to her counterpart, once that was settled through the negotiation in New Zealand, and they've had a good discussion. They and other ministers in our government look forward to further strengthening the bilateral relationship.

Senator Brandis: If I may add to Mr Sloper's answer, it's instructive that the only side of politics criticised by what is now the government of New Zealand, the New Zealand Labour coalition government, has been the Labour Party. The Deputy Prime Minister and foreign minister of New Zealand in the Ardern government, Mr Winston Peters, said at the time:

It is distasteful to see the New Zealand Labour Party colluding with the Australian Labor Party on what was a political hit ... targeting the Australian Deputy Prime Minister.

Meanwhile, Ms Ardern, now the Prime Minister of course, then the Leader of the Opposition, said, 'It shouldn't have happened.' The questions should never have been asked. The questions were 'not appropriate'. She also, by the way, said, 'I don’t foresee there being any issues' arising from these events that would impact the bilateral relationship. So I'm a little surprised, Senator Kitching, that you are chancing your arm to ask these questions when it is your party and only your party that has been criticised by the now Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister and foreign minister of New Zealand.

Senator KITCHING: Senator Brandis, no New Zealand minister is before the Australian Senate estimates committee, so I will just stick with the foreign minister, who is, through your representation, here.

Senator Brandis: Indeed. My point is the foreign minister wasn't criticised by the Prime Minister or Deputy Prime Minister of New Zealand, but your party and its conduct was.

Senator KITCHING: Mr Sloper, the department didn't share the foreign minister's concerns?

Mr Sloper : The foreign minister's concerns were about a specific issue that she saw worthwhile commenting on. We were confident the bilateral relationship would remain strong, and is strong, and I think that's seen already in the initial contact between leaders and foreign ministers. That's also seen in the commentary coming from New Zealand, where now ministers of the new government have indicated the strength of that relationship, and, I think, at the time, they also indicated they didn't want the issue at play to be seen in a way that would damage that bilateral relationship.

Senator KITCHING: So bilateral relations are on track?

Mr Sloper : I think Ms Ardern even said at the time that she wouldn't want that issue to get in the way of an incredibly constructive and important relationship.

Senator KITCHING: What is DFAT's outlook for the now New Zealand government—I think they've been sworn in?

Mr Sloper : We don't provide commentary on the domestic policy of individual governments, but there is a lot at play in terms of common interests between Australia and New Zealand. I think that's in a bilateral sense. We have the most comprehensive relationship economically through the CER and the single economic market, and I suspect our interests there will remain. There are strong community links and there are historical links, and they will all bolster an ongoing strengthening of the relationship in the Pacific. I think we're both valuable partners to the countries in the region; we're also valuable partners together; and we have global interests as well.

Ms Adamson : If I could just add to that: it would be entirely natural—it's already happening—that, as the new government ministers are appointed, their Australian counterparts will pick up the telephone, write letters or arrange to meet in myriad of meetings that'll be taking place in which Australians and New Zealanders will be involved between now and the end of the year. Obviously when there is a change of government, there's a small period of adjustment, but there's a huge amount of ballast in this relationship—incredibly active engagement across almost every conceivable policy issue. After a short period of preparations for an election, an election and post election, everyone will be back into it in resuming normal business.

Senator KITCHING: When you say when there's a change of government people pick up the phone, has the foreign minister picked up the phone yet?

Mr Sloper : I mentioned before that the foreign minister spoke to her counterpart last night.

Ms Adamson : Yes.

Senator KITCHING: Last night?

Ms Adamson : Yesterday afternoon.

Mr Sloper : Yesterday afternoon.

Senator KITCHING: And did she apologise during that phone call?

Mr Sloper : I have no record of the call, but I don't expect she would apologise to foreign minister Winston Peters in regard to any particular issue. I think they had a constructive discussion; it was warm, I'm told, and they're looking forward to working together.

Senator Brandis: I don't know, either, whether Senator Wong has apologised, given what the foreign minister of New Zealand had to say, and what Senator Wong herself admitted, when she said that she accepted it was unwise for her chief of staff Marcus Ganley to have conducted himself as he did. But perhaps if you think this is a matter that ought to be the subject of an apology, perhaps Senator Wong will take your advice, Senator Kitching, and find an opportunity to apologise.

Senator KITCHING: Just on that point, I think the foreign minister's comments at the time were that she thought the potential Prime Minister of New Zealand was untrustworthy, or the political party she represents was untrustworthy. Does DFAT consider it wise to make public statements on the difficulty of building trust with a particular leader or political party?

Ms Adamson : We wouldn't have a view on that.

Senator KITCHING: But it's not normal, is it, to make public statements on the trustworthiness of foreign political parties?

CHAIR: I think you might be asking the secretary for an opinion, Senator.

Senator Brandis: I don't think that the word 'trustworthy' was ever used. I think you're perhaps verballing the foreign minister.

Senator KITCHING: Let me just check. Here:

Should there be a change of government, I would find it very hard to build trust with those involved in allegations designed to undermine the government of Australia.

Senator Brandis: As I say, the word 'trustworthiness' was not used.

Senator KITCHING: 'Very hard to build trust'—one might think that—

Ms Adamson : With the persons, I think she said, not the potential government.

Senator Brandis: Indeed, it remains the case that—

Senator KITCHING: 'With those involved'—and that is the current Prime Minister of New Zealand.

Senator Brandis: the only side of Australian politics criticised by Ms Ardern and Mr Peters was your side of politics, and the only Australian politician who has acknowledged that they, or in fact their chief of staff, did the wrong thing was Senator Penny Wong.

Senator KITCHING: It's not ideal, though, is it, for the foreign minister to be doing that? Were you surprised, Senator Brandis?

Senator Brandis: I always find the foreign minister's contributions to public discussion in Australia exemplary.

Senator KITCHING: Good; that will be good when the cycle changes. Could I perhaps move on to the Middle East. I want to go firstly to Iran. Mr Neuhaus, I want to discuss the JCPOA, if we can go to that and particularly President Trump's non-recertification, but also the European countries that have a difference of opinion about that. I guess, like for a lot of the international community, the Iran deal was supported but with some reservations. Does the Australian government continue to support the JCPOA?

Mr Neuhaus : Yes, we do continue to support the JCPOA, and that was made clear by our foreign minister at UNGA when she was speaking publicly about this issue.

Senator KITCHING: Are we satisfied Iran has met the requirements under that deal?

Mr Neuhaus : It's not just the matter—if I may say so—of us being satisfied, but this is an international deal which is supported by a UN Security Council resolution and monitored by the IAEA, and there is a broad sense that Iran is complying with the deal arranged.

Senator KITCHING: Yesterday, Senator Fawcett and I had a briefing from Michael Eisenstadt from The Washington Institute, who runs the Military and Security Studies Program. Senator Fawcett can correct me if I haven't got the details correct, but I thought there was some suggestion that, when the inspections were being done, they were not done in person but by camera—so that they were filmed by Iran, and the inspectors weren't physically present. Is that correct?

Mr Neuhaus : I think I may ask Mr Richard Sadleir to respond precisely on that point.

Mr Sadleir : The IAEA has very rigorous safeguards associated with this process, and there are a number of mechanisms, that include the ability to undertake inspections. So actually the IAEA has made it quite clear that the JCPOA is being complied with, and there are mechanisms in the deal to allow for not just remote monitoring but inspections. So it actually provides—

Senator KITCHING: So they are doing both, are they?

Mr Sadleir : Yes.

Senator KITCHING: Sorry, I interrupted you.

Mr Sadleir : So there are mechanisms to protect against the diversion of declared nuclear material, but also to guard against occurrence of undeclared nuclear material activities—that is, covert.

Senator KITCHING: Is there any indication that the aims of the JCPOA are not being reached?

Mr Sadleir : Our view is that the Iran nuclear deal is being complied with.

Senator KITCHING: Okay.

Mr Sadleir : Of course, we want it to be strictly complied with.

Senator KITCHING: Yes, that's right. What does the Australian government regard as the impact of Iran's ongoing ballistic missile program? They tested earlier this year. Do we have a view?

Senator KITCHING: So, what does the Australian government regard as the impact of Iran's ongoing ballistic missile program? They tested earlier this year. Do we have a view?

Mr Sadleir : We're obviously concerned about Iran's missile program, but the missile program is separate to the JCPOA. The JCPOA—the Iran deal—is about nuclear matters.

Senator KITCHING: Yes. But do we have any view about the ballistic missile program?

Mr Sadleir : Yes. We have concerns about that program.

Senator KITCHING: And President Trump decided not to recertify. It's a 90-day rolling obligation, and then it will go to congress, I think, if it's not done.

Mr Neuhaus : It is now kicked to congress effectively.

Senator KITCHING: What do we think about the fact that America hasn't recertified, compared with foreign secretary Boris Johnson's public statements?

Mr Neuhaus : This is a complicated issue in the United States as well as being an international agreement with Iran, and the important thing for us is that Iran continues to comply with the deal. There is a process that has to be played out, clearly, within the United States system, and we know the politics that sit behind that.

Senator KITCHING: Does it make it more difficult for President Rouhani to—I don't want to use a pun. Is he less empowered, because it may give the hardliners more of an opportunity?

Mr Neuhaus : That would be mere speculation on our part, but President Rouhani was elected strongly, and he is remaining very much in effective control at the present time. We've continued to encourage him to do what he's doing—his government—and other countries in the international community to stay committed to the JCPOA. I think that's important.

Senator KITCHING: Yes. Because otherwise there would be a land bridge built over to the Levant.

Mr Neuhaus : There is a whole other issue which is separate from the JCPOA on Iran and its ambitions in the Levant. But, if I could say so, one of the things that's important to Iran is to build relationships with the wider world, including commercial relationships. The JCPOA has been very important in that regard in providing more space for those relationships to develop, and that's why European countries also are very committed to it.

Senator KITCHING: Given President Trump—I think it was in the middle of May this year—went to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, and then I think they did a variety of deals and they equated to about $350 billion over 10 years. How does that then balance Iran and Saudi Arabia? Where does America go in this? Where do we think they're going to go?

Mr Neuhaus : I really don't know where they are going to go, but the Middle East, as we all know, is a very complex situation, and Saudi Arabia and Iran are two key players in the Middle East. Obviously we, as Australia, would want to see the best possible relations between the key players in the Middle East.

Senator KITCHING: Yes, I think that's important. Boris Johnson gave a speech—it feels like it's been a long week, but I think it was on Monday in Chatham House in London. He urged the US to—I think the words he used were 'row back' on the noncertification. I think he's put out a joint press release with France and maybe with Germany. So, what do we think about that? Do we think that Boris Johnson is going to be successful in trying to get them to row back?

Mr Neuhaus : This would be speculation for me. I don't know whether the secretary feels she wants to say anything about this.

Ms Adamson : The P3—the US, France and the UK—are parties to the agreement. So it's not surprising that the British have taken a forward-leaning position and that Foreign Secretary Johnson has said what he's said.

Senator KITCHING: I might leave it there, and if I have any other questions I'll will put them on notice, if that's okay.

Mr Sadleir : You're very welcome.

Senator KITCHING: I do want to come back to the Middle East, but I want to ask some other questions which would relate to the foreign minister. I am going to refer to QON 68 which related to the public diplomacy strategy 2014-16. I am in the 2016-17 additional estimates.

Ms Adamson : In relation to the official commitments? Is that the heading on it?

Senator KITCHING: It's in relation to the Public Diplomacy Communications and Scholarships Division that's responsible for the fashion diplomacy strategy.

Ms Adamson : I have here QON 68 from additional estimates 2016-17. You can go to your specific question. I think we're in the same spot.

Senator KITCHING: I want to know if the Public Diplomacy Communications and Scholarships Division is still responsible for the fashion diplomacy strategy?

Mr Byrne : Yes, we are.

Senator KITCHING: Lovely. It is now October 2017. Is that strategy being renewed? It was for 2014-16. I think it was produced in May 2016. That's from the front of it.

Mr Byrne : I'm not sure, but we may be talking about two slightly different things. We have a public diplomacy strategy 2014-16. The status of that document is that we're awaiting the publication of the forthcoming foreign policy white paper before we update our public diplomacy strategy. But that covers all aspects of our public diplomacy, of which fashion diplomacy is one small aspect.

Senator KITCHING: I will come to the white paper a little later. So are you going to wait to update all of your strategy documents until the white paper comes out? Is that essentially how it works?

Mr Byrne : Not necessarily for all of them across the department, but certainly we made a conscious decision with public diplomacy to await the publication of the white paper.

Senator KITCHING: Have you started doing any work on that new strategy?

Mr Byrne : Not yet, no—not in any serious way.

Senator KITCHING: After the white paper is released—I think the last time line we have is for the fourth quarter this year—when would you expect the public diplomacy strategy to be completed?

Mr Byrne : I would be reluctant to put a specific time on that, only because I think we need to see what new guidance and initiatives emerge from the white paper that might guide and shape our public diplomacy strategy.

Senator KITCHING: Do you have a copy of this handy?

Mr Byrne : Our public diplomacy strategy?

Senator KITCHING: Yes.

Mr Byrne : I don't think I have a copy in my pack with me, but I am—

Senator KITCHING: Maybe I can ask some questions and we can share a document. On page 14 it stated that goals 1, 3 and 5 of the strategy will be achieved through a number of things, including delivery of public diplomacy programs to promote Australia's creative industries, including fashion. On page 15 it is stated that goals 2, 3 and 5 will be achieved through a number of things, including promoting a positive image of Australia and strengthening people-to-people ties through fashion diplomacy initiatives. Could I have a list of all of the public diplomacy programs that have supported Australia's fashion diplomacy?

Mr Byrne : What we can provide on notice is a list of fashion related public diplomacy events conducted either in Australia or through our overseas posts in the life of or since the life of that strategy in 2014.

Senator KITCHING: Okay. Could you also take on notice, perhaps, for each financial year since 2014-15 a list of all the programs that have supported fashion diplomacy, including the person or entity supported, the total value of the program and the location of the program.

Mr Byrne : I think it will be little difficult to give you that level of detail. As I said, we have a list—again, I don't have the comprehensive list with me—of events run mainly by our overseas posts over that period that relate to fashion, the fashion industry or Australian fashion exports in some way. We can certainly look at it, but I think going back retrospectively and trying to find that granular information around every one of those events would be a fairly substantial undertaking. But we can certainly give you that list of events as a starting point.

Senator KITCHING: Is that because the missions might be doing it out of their own discrete budgets?

Mr Byrne : In most cases, yes—out of their own allocated public diplomacy budget. That is in most cases. In some cases, there might be some involvement of, for example, Australian designers who have been funded through some other source, such as one of our specific cultural diplomacy grants.

Ms Adamson : For a number of our missions overseas, including the one I served at most recently, fashion diplomacy is actually quite an important part of our overall public diplomacy strategy. It is one that we have received strong encouragement to continue, direct from the Australian fashion industry. So often Austrade colleagues will be involved also in helping develop strategies around particular global fashion events or opportunities to display and give prominence to either particular designers or, say, an Australian wool component or elements of fibre technology and various other things. It's quite a complex business and one that we all take seriously because the ability to do this well is clearly a part of who we are. We've been very pleased actually that we've had a foreign minister who's brought new energy and focus to the work that we do in this area.

CHAIR: Just on that, I've spent a lot of this week talking about the wool industry in other places. But, Secretary, in terms of the economic value of the fashion industry not just in jobs but, indeed, as you mentioned in fibre production et cetera, are you able to quantify the significance of this industry to our nation? Sometimes it's trivialised, but it actually underpins a lot of jobs.

Senator BRANDIS: I can give you some figures, Senator McKenzie. They are not national figures. They are figures for the state of Victoria, which I think is widely known to be the heart of the Australian textile—

CHAIR: A large proportion of our wool industry is in the great state of Victoria.

Senator BRANDIS: clothing and footwear industry. The most recent figures which I have are for 2013. The total value to the Victorian economy of textile, clothing and footwear manufacturing output was $3.3 billion and in that state alone the industry employed 14,500 people. I can also tell you that textile, clothing and footwear exports were valued at $170 million. So this is a substantial sector of the Australian manufacturing industry. It has a very significant export component. The industry is delighted that it has such a strong advocate in the foreign minister, who has prioritised its interests in the way that is apparent from Senator Kitching's questions.

CHAIR: Thank you, and I'm sure Senator Kitching, too, as a Victorian senator, is supportive of those job outcomes.

Senator MOORE: Ms Adamson, given the strong support that you and the minister have just given to the idea of fashion diplomacy, I think there would be documentation about which we've just asked. If it is such a high priority—

Ms Adamson : We can get you the information that you need. I think what my colleague was rightly worried about, given the resources pressures on us, was just the degree of detail that you wanted, but we can give you a sense of the sorts of things that we do—things like the consulate-general in Hong Kong facilitating and promoting AFC involvement in the world's largest leather trade show in March this year.

Senator MOORE: Sure. Information about the industry and—

Ms Adamson : Yes, scholarships, education—

Senator MOORE: if there are particular designers that are being focused on—that's the kind of thing that we want to know. In 2014-15, under a particular heading of fashion diplomacy, which was a newly promoted phrase in the program, we would like to know where it happened, the kinds of things it was focused on and who was involved. Give us what you can give us and then we'll come back.

Ms Adamson : We'll give you examples of that to illustrate the points that we've been making.

Senator KITCHING: And maybe the value of the program, if that's possible.

Mr Byrne : Perhaps I can address that now. Collectively, across all those events—and this is just for the last financial year, 2016-17—our spending on fashion related events in total was about $366,000, which equates to about 4½ per cent of our total public diplomacy spending.

Senator Brandis: Further on the subject of Ms Bishop's interest in fashion diplomacy, I note that in his recently published memoir, or the first volume, in fact, of his memoirs, Not for the Faint-hearted, the former Prime Minister and foreign minister Mr Rudd has this to say about Ms Bishop's interest in the issue. I'm quoting from page 290: 'Julie Bishop had been attacked relentlessly by our side'—that is, your side, the Labor side—'drawing on the usual list of sexist trivia, not least her interest in designer clothing, and not only by the Labor boyos. But I found her to be an intelligent, engaging human being with a social conscience.' So the implicit criticism of Ms Bishop's interest in this area, or the explicit criticism that has come from you and others in past estimates committees, is not shared by a recent Labor Party occupant of the foreign ministry, who regards your innuendos about Ms Bishop as part of 'the usual list of sexist trivia'.

Senator MOORE: Minister, I don't think asking questions about an element of diplomacy can be called an innuendo or a slur.

Senator Brandis: Well, I think—

Senator MOORE: So we will continue asking these questions—and I really do appreciate you quoting from page 290; I've only got up to page 200 myself.

Senator Brandis: Senator Moore, you haven't engaged in this, and you may or may not have been present at recent estimates committees where the sexism and trivialisation directed at the foreign minister from Labor senators has been even more palpable.

CHAIR: Senator Kitching retains the call on the fabulous fashion industry.

Senator KITCHING: Going back to QON 68, it stated that since January 2016 four fashion related briefs have been prepared for the foreign minister—is that correct?

Mr Byrne : That would have been correct at the time that we answered that question.

Senator KITCHING: Have there been any since then?

Mr Byrne : Since March 2017, we've provided four more fashion related briefs to the foreign minister.

Senator KITCHING: So the four mentioned in the QON and eight since—is that correct?

Mr Byrne : It was four in the period until March, when we responded to that QON, and another four subsequently.

Senator KITCHING: Thank you.

CHAIR: Senator Wong, you have the call.

Senator WONG: Mr Wood has been very patient. I will be very quick. I wonder if the various tables that we have had on previous occasions can be updated? This is in relation to the ODA projects. I'm happy not to go through them now, unless there is something amazing you want to draw to my attention.

Mr McDonald : Mr Wood is well prepared, Senator.

Senator WONG: I'm sure he is. He always is.

Mr Wood : We always have lots of amazing numbers. But they would probably only interest a couple of people in the room. I am able to table those reports that we've tabled previously. They have been updated as at 12 October 2017.

Senator WONG: Okay. If you can do that, I'll have a look at them in the next break and see if there's anything I want to come back on. Can I go to question on notice 67, please. This is on the use of private contractors. You gave me some information—I asked about NGOs and engaging the private sector—and there is a table on page 2 of that, which sets out the amounts of money for contractors. There's also question on notice 236. This is, I think, an answer to a question from Senator Ludlam. So I'll be referring to both of those. At the bottom of the table on page 2 of question on notice 67, where it says 'Total ODA expenditure', under 'amount expensed', is that actual expenditure, can you tell me what that figure represents? Is that actual expenditure to a particular date for the 2016-17 year?

Mr Wood : That would be correct.

Senator WONG: Sorry. There's an asterisk on the next page: 'Data correct as of 10 March 2017'. That would mean 'actual expenditure from ODA as at 10 March 2017'. Can I have an updated figure, an equivalent table?

Mr Wood : I have to take that on notice.

Senator WONG: Okay. And what about an updated figure for the last line item, 'Total ODA expenditure'?

Mr Wood : Yes. Absolutely.

Senator WONG: You don't have that now? Because that's an actual expenditure for the past financial year.

Mr Wood : I don't have that information with me, no. We can take that on notice.

Senator WONG: Have they done FBO?

Mr Wood : We have signed off on our financial statements. I don't have—

Senator WONG: You don't have it with you?

Mr Wood : Yes.

Senator WONG: Okay. Question on notice 236—actually it might be 235. My staff have just reminded me there's a distinction between DFAT ODA—of course—can I have Australian ODA total—so whole of government. I apologise.

Mr Wood : Thank you, Senator.

Senator WONG: I apologise, but I think it's meant to be question on notice 235 actually. That's the one with the table which breaks down ODA by different delivery partner type: 'multilateral, contractors, NGOs and other partners'. Is this DFAT ODA or whole-of-government ODA?

Ms Adamson : We're just getting a copy. It relates to an earlier—I don't have it electronically—

Senator WONG: You don't have this one?

Ms Adamson : We're just getting it from the back of the room. Apologies for the delay.

Senator WONG: And I think I gave you the wrong number.

Ms Adamson : Yes, I can't find it on 235.

Mr McDonald : We can check, but I think they will be fairly similar, no matter what.

Senator WONG: While that's happening, Senator Ludlam asked chamber question on notice No. 409, on essentially the same topic, the percentage of ODA managed by managing contractors, NGOs and so forth. I'd like an update to parts 3, 4 and 5 of that answer. I suspect you'll have to take that on notice. That is the proportion of aid funding expensed through managing contractors as a percentage of total aid funding variation—top 10 contractors by amount, and the three largest contract holders by number of contracts.

Mr McDonald : Yes, we'll probably have to take that on notice.

Senator WONG: I understand.

Mr Wood : Senator, we could do that for the 2016-17 financial year. Is that what you would like?

Senator WONG: Yes. If you look at chamber question on notice No. 409, asked by Senator Ludlam on 17 March, and if you could update in similar terms parts 3, 4 and 5. You're right, Ms Adamson; it is from the additional estimates, the 235.

Ms Adamson : That's okay. We can get it.

Senator WONG: Do you want me to come back to it?

Ms Adamson : If you wouldn't mind. If you keep going, we'll come back.

Senator WONG: Are you able to tell me the total ODA delivered through the five largest contractors from 2012-13 to present?

Mr McDonald : We would have to take that on notice.

Senator WONG: Okay. Perhaps the best way to do that is—Senator Gallacher asked, if you could update information provided at question on notice No. 182 and No. 183 from the additional estimates round.

Mr McDonald : Yes, Senator.

Senator WONG: Okay. How are we going on 235? We're waiting, still?

Mr McDonald : Yes.

Senator WONG: Okay. You may have to help me to remember to come back. How many of our bilateral aid programs have had the majority or all of their ODA budget contracted out or put out to tender?

Mr McDonald : Can you repeat that? What percentage of the—

Senator WONG: Of our bilateral aid programs—bilateral country programs—I want to know how many of those would have had the majority, or perhaps even all, of their ODA expenditure either delivered through contracting out or some other competitive tender process.

Mr McDonald : I don't think there would be any with 'all'. But we'll have to take it on notice. We can provide that information, yes.

Ms Adamson : Senator, I just want to be clear about the question. In no case would we contract out the whole of the aid budget for delivering aid programs in a particular country, but are you talking about the proportion of aid delivered in that country, which might come from multilateral programs, delivered by major contractors—

Senator WONG: Can I tell you what sparked our interest?

Ms Adamson : Yes.

Senator WONG: It was a DFAT notice in relation to a Fiji aid program tender, which was headed 'proposed single facility' for delivery of Australia's bilateral aid program in Fiji. And it appears to suggest the government intended to engage a single service provider to manage the facility in support of the multiple bilateral programs. I wanted to understand if that was an architecture that was being piloted or whether this was now a sort of commonplace approach.

Mr McDonald : I wouldn't call it common. It's in a number of locations, three or four that I'm aware of. So it's a facility that has been put in place, and the Fiji one is an example and Mr Sloper can talk more about that. So, yes, they're reasonably new in that sense.

Senator WONG: So you have three such—I will come to Mr Sloper—

Mr McDonald : Three or four—I would have to take that on notice.

Senator WONG: Can we find out, please?

Mr McDonald : Sure.

Senator WONG: I will come to Mr Sloper about the particular architecture of the Fiji one. When was a policy decision made to do this? Does it comprise the entirety of the bilateral program?

Mr McDonald : Mr Sloper can talk about the Fiji program.

Senator WONG: But you said—

Mr McDonald : Sorry. To answer your question, no it doesn't entail the whole bilateral program in relation to those facilities. There is a managing contractor that's in place, and a facility for delivery or contracting out of some of that program to contractors. So it's a way of consolidating our broad array of programs as part of consolidation, which is one of the objectives we had with the program. As you know, we previously had 1,300 or 1,400 programs. One way of doing this was to consolidate it more. Fiji is probably a good example of that.

Senator WONG: I want to understand where the policy decision was made that we would go down this path before I get into details of Fiji. I want to understand who has made a policy decision to go down a consolidation path in the context of the bilateral aid program, and what are parameters associated with it? Is this a pilot? Do we do it where we have less than a certain threshold? What are the criteria for us engaging in this kind of architecture?

Mr McDonald : I think Mr Sloper is best to answer that.

Senator WONG: I'm happy to talk about Fiji, but I want to understand—

Mr Sloper : I can talk in the general.

Mr McDonald : In general terms.

Senator WONG: I'd like to understand when this decision was made and so forth.

Mr Sloper : Senator Gallacher has asked me about this in previous estimates, with regard to both the Fiji facility and one we have in Papua New Guinea. To your broader question, there has not been a single policy decision, and that reflects the fact that over a number of years—not just recently—we have looked to a partners to deliver our arrangements. They would be NGO partners through direct procurement or through a competitive grants process, or commercial companies that deliver aid programs. There are a number of major programs that world they are competitive and have experience with development specialists who deliver it. We often do this in environments where in the past we have a multitude of contracts—

Senator WONG: What do you mean we often do this? Mr McDonald's evidence is—

Mr Sloper : In my context in the Pacific, we have two major facilities across all of our programs.

Senator WONG: Which are?

Mr Sloper : In Papua New Guinea and in Fiji.

Senator WONG: And you're going to find out where else, Mr McDonald?

Mr McDonald : I think there's one that I'm aware of in Asia.

Senator WONG: What's the one you're aware of, Mr Gilling?

Mr Gilling : We have similar models currently in East Timor and in Indonesia.

Senator WONG: In Indonesia?

Mr Gilling : Yes.

Senator WONG: So there's no policy decision. Who makes the decision that a country or a bilateral aid program would benefit from a single facility?

Mr Gilling : The process of deciding what sort of investments to have in the country are made by a combination of the desk and the post, and it's based on conversations with partner governments as well.

Senator WONG: So it's a DFAT desk/post decision.

Mr Gilling : In consultation with the partner government.

Senator WONG: But you have no kind of policy framework or criteria about when you do or don't do it?

Mr Gilling : That's correct. There is an evolution in the way that some donors are thinking about the way they deliver aid that would guide them in some of these paths.

Senator WONG: In relation to single facility, what sort of proportion of Australian ODA goes via that architecture?

Mr Sloper : I will use an example from Fiji because that was where we started. The facility I think you're referring to is $66 million over five years from 2017 to 2021. If it's the same one we're talking about, it was accorded to Coffey international development on 23 January in this year. It covers support for health, education and community development scholarships. To give you an idea of how it sits within the total program, the annual program for this year 2017-18 bilaterally is estimated to be about $65.6 million. It's a subset, if you like, spread over that period.

Senator WONG: You said $66 million over how many years?

Mr Sloper : Five years.

Senator WONG: The DFAT notice that I'm looking at starts in these terms:

The Australian Government delivers around $35 million in bilateral aid to Fiji per annum in the areas of health, education, scholarships … The priorities of Australian aid in Fiji are outlined in the Fiji Aid Investment Plan 2015.

Those figures don't correlate with what you've told me.

Mr Sloper : The 30-something million figure you mentioned at the beginning relates to the ongoing bilateral program. The Fiji program is slightly higher at the moment because we're still dealing with the expenditure associated with the assistance for Cyclone Pam.

Senator WONG: How much for the ongoing bilateral program is delivered through this architecture?

Mr Sloper : I would have to work out the exact percentage. As I said, the contract, as I'm aware, is $66 million over five years. I will just need to do the maths and divide it for you and work it out as a percentage.

Senator WONG: So it's 12 of 35—is that what you're saying?

Mr Sloper : That's right.

Senator WONG: Sorry; it's less than that—33. So 35 is the relevant figure for the purpose of the ongoing program, of which 12 is delivered by—no; sorry. How much is delivered by Coffey—66 over five?

Mr Sloper : That's right. It is about a third, I think.

Senator WONG: About a third?

Mr Sloper : Yes.

Senator WONG: What is the denominator? Is that DFAT ODA or whole-of-government ODA?

Mr McDonald : DFAT ODA.

Senator WONG: Can you give some similar information about—actually I will come to Indonesia. Did you give me a figure in the end?

Mr Sloper : I gave an estimate of the percentage, which is approximately a third, not the exact figure. I just need to check the yellow book. I don't have the figures with me in terms of the forecast for the forward years in the Fiji bilateral.

Senator WONG: Okay. And is it successful?

Mr Sloper : The facility is in its first few stages, but we see it as a means to consolidate the administration delivery around the investments, as we describe them. We think that will give us greater efficiencies. To date it's been working well. But it requires a different model for our posts when they're engaging, because obviously we've got a major single entity taking on some of that administrative role and we want to keep the strategic relationship with our partner governments on that.

Senator WONG: You say there are no criteria et cetera, Mr McDonald. Is it an ad hoc thing?

Mr McDonald : I'm not sure whether I said there were any criteria. But I wouldn't call it ad hoc.

Senator WONG: Okay—no criteria and ad hoc; there's a spectrum. What's the—

Mr McDonald : No. If I can—

Senator WONG: No, no. Hang on, I'm actually giving you an opportunity here.

Mr McDonald : I was going to try and take it!

Senator WONG: If there are criteria on the one hand and it's ad hoc on the other, where are we calibrated on that spectrum?

Mr McDonald : I think the driver for this, if I am to be honest, is the consolidation of the number of programs we've had. The desk and the geographic areas, the posts, are looking at how they can best do that. These facilities are being piloted—I think you used that word; I think that's a reasonable way of looking at it—in three or four locations. We will evaluate that as part of our internal evaluation process, and then we'll make a decision on whether that is actually the most effective way for us to deliver the program. Obviously, there are cost savings associated with bringing those things together, but, when you say there's no policy, I think there's a policy around consolidation and effectiveness of the program, and there are various ways for us to do that. This is one way. We're piloting in three or four locations.

Senator WONG: Is there any document, any policy, any internal mechanism to consider when this is appropriate, when you go down this path? If you're a HOM sitting somewhere and someone tells you that Fiji has got this arrangement, how do you start to consider whether or not this is an appropriate model for—

Mr McDonald : I think the criteria we use would be around value for money—so efficiency and effectiveness. I'm being quite honest about this. For example, if you bring it together over—

Senator WONG: I understand.

Mr McDonald : So that's one criterion.

Senator WONG: Has there been communication to various heads of mission outlining this possibility?

Mr McDonald : What happens in the agency, of course, where it starts in one place, and people see that as a process we can use in another place, and of course we have governance arrangements in place in the agency that's looking at this as it evolves. Yes, people look at different ways to deliver the program that are most efficient and effective. So the answer is yes.

Senator WONG: So, yes, you are considering applying it elsewhere?

Mr McDonald : As I said earlier, we will evaluate this and we've got a process of evaluation that will follow this. Then that will be considered within our governance arrangements as to whether that's the best way forward.

Senator WONG: So this is a pending evaluation process?

Mr McDonald : Yes, it is.

Senator WONG: So you haven't resolved how that will occur yet?

Mr McDonald : It will go through either our internal audit process or it will go through our independent evaluation unit. Either of those will provide a report for us to consider as part of our governance arrangements.

Senator WONG: In the Australia-Indonesia Economic Cooperation Partnership, there was an AusTender item which was headed in those terms. The tender appears to be for the delivery of bilateral aid, stating the indicative allocation for the investment is A$145 million over five years, the period 2018 to 2023, with an option for a three-year extension. What is our annual ODA out to Indonesia?

Mr McDonald : I think it's about 350. But I'll ask Mr Wood.

Senator WONG: This is DFAT again?

Mr McDonald : This would be Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, yes.

Mr Wood : The bilateral aid budget to Indonesia is $296 million. Total ODA to Indonesia is $356.9 million.

Senator WONG: And this is $145 million over five years? Has this Indonesian tender been finalised?

Mr Connor : The tenders are just being published now and are under way at the moment.

Senator WONG: Did you say you are with the maritime division?

Mr Connor : We do the islands.

Senator WONG: That's a lot of islands. So islands includes Indonesia?

Mr Connor : It includes: Indonesia, Philippines, Malaysia, Singapore, and Brunei.

Senator WONG: The Peninsula of Malaysia is not an island.

Mr Connor : But the other bits are.

Senator WONG: Can you answer again?

Mr Connor : We have just started the process of putting the tender out. That's the advertisement you have seen there and so we're really at the beginning of a process.

Senator WONG: So this is about one-tenth of the total bilateral aid program, on the figures you gave?

Mr Connor : That would be about right.

Senator WONG: Why are we doing that? Do we not have the capacity to meet that within DFAT?

Mr Connor : The broad reason for engaging in this process is because, in the past, we had two governance programs that we were running at the same time in Indonesia. The one you mentioned is called the Australia-Indonesia Partnership for Economic Governance. The other is called the government partnerships fund. The basic difference between those two partnerships is both of them are aimed at providing assistance to the Indonesian government in governance, broadly speaking, largely in the economic areas, but it can go into anywhere. The APEG program largely aims at providing experts in various evidence areas of governance and technical areas of assistance in the economics sphere. They can be from any country. They can be from anywhere. They're basically experts we provide to put inside the Indonesian government.

Senator WONG: I find this rather odd, if I may. This is not identified as governance. It's called the Australia-Indonesia Economic Cooperation Partnership. It's described as the centrepiece of our partnership with Indonesia and we're going to pay someone else to find the technical experts, including in government-to-government institutional partnerships.

Mr Connor : If I may finish, there are two halves of it. The other half of it, what we call the GPF partnership, is basically finding partners in Australian government agencies with the Indonesian government agencies. For example, the Australian Treasury is partnered with the Indonesian Ministry of Finance. Our ombudsman office is partnered with the Indonesian ombudsman office. The aim of the facility was to combine the two halves of these two programs that were going on. One was to have technical experts in various quite specified areas, perhaps on tax; the other was to deal with government exchanges that were going on.

Senator WONG: But we're paying someone external to engage in that.

Mr Connor : Yes, because we need someone external to hire the experts and to identify what's going on. When we say 'hire someone external', they will run—

Senator WONG: But we're talking about experts in government. I have to say, I would have thought this is a capacity we should have.

Mr Connor : We provide the Australian government experts, but if there are—you mean in terms of identifying people?

Senator WONG: I would hope that governments would be able to identify people who are good at governing.

Mr Connor : We do, for those that we provide. But, if, for example, there is a requirement for someone to give some advice on a tax system, we may have someone—

Senator WONG: That's the Australian Treasury or the ATO.

Mr Connor : Well, no. We may have someone within our system. It may be an aspect of the tax system that requires an international expert, someone familiar perhaps with the Indonesian system, that we wouldn't necessarily have.

Senator WONG: But you talk to Treasury?

Mr Connor : But the Treasury—

Senator WONG: Of course they do; of course they have. They do international tax work all the time. You're talking about paying a third party to identify experts that we would provide to Indonesia, or for support to Indonesia in governing. Don't we have the capacity to do that?

Mr Connor : For part of it, we do. Part of the government exchange that we run is indeed what we would do ourselves. But, for very technical areas that require the provision of people with particular expertise, it requires an outside agency to go through the process of identifying and hiring those people. I should add, also, that the facility itself is aimed to cover all of the day-to-day administration of both these programs—that is to say, the conditions of service, the living arrangements, the salaries and what have you of these people who are provided.

Senator WONG: So DFAT doesn't regard that as reasonably core capability?

Mr Connor : It is for some. But there are some things for which there wouldn't be anyone in the Australian government who would be able to point to someone to say, 'This is the person you need for that purpose.' Indeed, one needs to go through a process of identifying who would be available, and deciding together with the aid recipient who would be the best person to do the job.

Mr McDonald : Just on that, I think it's worth adding that certainly since the time I've been involved, since 2011, that's been going on—experts that we've engaged from outside that have expertise like that. That's not something that is particularly associated with these changes to facility.

Senator WONG: No, hang on. That's a straw-man argument. I'm not suggesting that it might not be a good thing to have external experts supported to engage with partner countries for the purposes of particular sets of expertise. What I am pushing back on, or what I am interrogating, is why you need a third party to identify them. It's all right; we just might not agree.

Mr Gilling : This is a continuation of a very successful program which has indeed been the centrepiece of our economic aid relationship with Indonesia for, I would say, getting on for a decade. The model—so, this new one that's just been contracted out—

Senator WONG: Yes, but we did it in-house.

Mr Gilling : No, we also used to use a company—

Mr McDonald : Yes.

Mr Gilling : whose job was to identify technical experts who could sometimes be appointed for a month, sometimes for years. Actually, the skill of this identification process sat behind the quality of our relationship with the government of Indonesia.

Senator WONG: Is this a change to the proportion of the program that's being delivered by this architecture?

Mr Connor : I don't believe so, no. It will be in the same broad sectors. The government partnerships fund is basically cooperation between Australian government agencies and Indonesian agencies.

Senator WONG: Yes.

Mr Connor : And, indeed, as you say, we would simply choose our people and say, 'You shall go and do this piece of work.' But it's the AIPEG one, which is now to be folded into the new program, where we need to have someone else help us identify suitable individuals.

Senator WONG: Can I move now to GNI targets. Mr McDonald, I'm working out whether I go to you or Ms Adamson.

Mr McDonald : Feel free to go to the secretary!

Senator WONG: Feel free!

Ms Adamson : We work hand in hand, Senator!

Senator WONG: We've got a handball in the executive people! I want to start with a broad point. I asked the very wonderful Parliamentary Library to do a bit of an analysis of the history of Australian aid policy. They made this point: there's been a largely bipartisan approach to the aid budget over the last 30 years, in that the two major parties have committed to grow the aid budget in line with aspirational expenditure targets, from opposition and, in line with this increased aid expenditure, whilst in government. And it goes on to go through the various history there. I think the first question I wanted to ask is: historically, what is your understanding of the history, in Australian terms, of the UN 0.7 per cent of GNI as ODA as a target?

Mr McDonald : That's a good question. It goes back a number of years, and I'll have to get one of my key people with a bit more expertise, who's been around a bit longer. But it goes back some time. I'm not sure of the exact year, but I'll be able to give you that—as an aspirational target of 0.7. I can give you the exact year, but it does go back a few years.

Senator WONG: Well, I'd like to do both. I'd like to understand what you understand to be the history in the Australian context of the target of 0.5 per cent of GNI target and the target of 0.7 per cent of GNI.

Mr McDonald : Well, certainly—while Mr Exell comes to the table—in terms of the bipartisan approach to the 0.5 per cent, leading up to the last few years, I think we've had discussions here on the government's position on that target. But there was a bipartisan target for a number of years, which you're very familiar with from when you were in government previously. That's no longer the target, for the reasons that we've outlined here previously around budget considerations and the like. So, that's my history on the 0.5. Mr Exell might be able to give a bit more on the 0.7.

Mr Exell : Sorry, Senator, but I can't give you specifics of the years in which various governments have committed to a 0.7 or a 0.5 target. I would have to take that on notice.

Senator WONG: Well, what's the history of 0.7? What's the genesis of it?

Mr Exell : The OECD DAC target? Again, I'd have to take on notice the specific years, by my understanding is that, when we look at the gap between financing needs of developing countries and countries' burden or ability to support that gap, then there was a general agreement at a global level for that as an aspirational target.

Mr McDonald : And on the funding, I think it's worth thinking about how things have changed a little bit recently. And we've had discussions here around the Financing for Development conference in 2015, which is also how we fund the sustainable development goals. And this doesn't go to 0.7, but the point I want to make is that even 0.7 is far less funding that we need to meet these SDGs, which are trillions of dollars each year. So, part of what we need to do on this funding is to attract private sector finance into this as well as public sector finance. It is my understanding that when the 0.7 started the private sector aspect was not really a component of that. Yes, 0.7 is still there; it hasn't gone anywhere. But also private sector finance has been added to that.

Senator WONG: Okay. Now, you said in answer to the question earlier, Mr McDonald—I took your answer to mean—that the government no longer has 0.5 per cent of GNI as an aspirational target.

Mr McDonald : Sorry—I was paraphrasing some of the discussions we've had here previously, where the government has indicated that the target has been affected by the budget situation they inherited in government. That was basically the discussion we've had here. I mean, that's on the record, and that's not—

Senator WONG: Sorry—the target has been—

Mr McDonald : Well, the target of 0.5 was originally in place, as you know, as a bipartisan arrangement, and then the discussions here—and Mr Wood might have the exact words—have been that given the budget situation and the need for budget repair there's not a target set, the way I understand it.

Senator WONG: Not even an aspirational target?

Mr McDonald : Well, I would like to check the words. I'd like to actually be clear—

Senator WONG: Sure. Perhaps you can, on notice, or perhaps after the break, explain what you understand the policy position to be.

Mr McDonald : Okay. Thanks.

Mr Wood : Some of the wording we've used in those responses has been around time-bound—it will be a time-bound target. However, as you said, we'll come back after the break.

Mr Exell : Senator, just on one of your specific questions, the OECD website indicates that the OECD first agreed to the 0.7 target in 1970.

Senator WONG: Senator Moore says 1968. She might know.

Mr McDonald : I'd believe Senator Moore.

Senator WONG: Do you have any update on GNI targets in future years?

Mr McDonald : Only for the forward estimates.

Senator WONG: You're not going to give me anything more?

Mr Wood : No; we responded in the last estimates—

Senator WONG: You did. I just tried my luck again!

Mr Wood : I think it goes to 0.20 in 2020-21.

Mr McDonald : I think we remember that discussion well, Senator!

CHAIR: Lesson learnt.

Senator WONG: I'm conscious that some of my colleagues might have questions, so I'll just do one more thing and then others might want to jump in. KPMG, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Deloitte, and Ernst & Young: how many contracts do each of these four firms currently hold with DFAT? And what is the total value?

Mr Gilling : We would have to take that on notice.

Senator WONG: Do you have any particular policy specific to the contracting with those consultants?

Mr Gilling : Not that I'm aware of, no.

Senator WONG: And in terms of decision-making, is your decision-making delegation for external contracts, such as those that these consultants might undertake, predicated upon value of contract?

Mr Gilling : Well, these would be commercial contracts offered. So, they would be subject to a standard process of selection, a standard tender process, which would include value for money—

Senator WONG: No—you misunderstand my question—I understand that. I'm just asking: I assume—and tell me if this is correct—that your procurement policies don't require a particular level or particular set of decision-making in respect of contracts going to the big four, that the criteria for that decision-making process would first be predicated on the value of the contract, in terms of which process applied, and then whatever standard of procurement decision-making applied to that contract value.

Mr Gilling : I understand what you're saying. We have different procurement rules applying to different sizes of contracts across the board, but no differentiation made according to the organisation.

Senator WONG: Okay. So, on notice, can I have the total number of contracts currently held with DFAT and the total value of those contracts? And, across the financial years since 2007-08, can you give me an annual spend on contracts with those four consultants?

Mr Gilling : Yes.

Senator WONG: Thank you.

Senator KITCHING: Could we move on to the Middle East now? Sorry for jumping around. I want to ask some questions about Australia's diplomatic presence in Israel. At the March additional estimates hearing, Mr Innes-Brown advised:

The Australian government's position is that we have no plans to move the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

Is that still the Australian government's position?

Mr Neuhaus : Yes, that does indeed remain our position.

Senator KITCHING: When asked whether it was also Minister Bishop's position that there were no plans to move the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem—Ms Adamson, I'm going to quote you—you said:

The foreign minister has outlined Australia's position in exactly the terms that Mr Innes-Brown just described.

Is that still the foreign minister's position?

Ms Adamson : Yes, that's correct.

Senator KITCHING: There was an article—

Ms Adamson : Yes, I know there was, but it's her position. Articles are not always accurate.

Senator KITCHING: Sorry, what was that?

Ms Adamson : I said articles are not always accurate.

Senator KITCHING: No. That's true. Those quotes were from the estimates hearing on 2 March this year. Then there was an article in The Australian, which quoted The Australian Jewish News, and that article is dated 25 August this year. It reported:

Ms Bishop said "the biggest stumbling blocks to Australia moving the embassy to Jerusalem are financial and security [issues]".

Given the evidence at this committee in March, has anything changed?

Ms Adamson : No.

Senator KITCHING: Has the foreign minister's position changed?

Ms Adamson : No.

Senator KITCHING: What are the biggest factors in considering any decision by Australia to establish an embassy in Jerusalem?

Ms Adamson : We have an embassy in Tel Aviv; we don't lightly move embassies; Tel Aviv is the main location for diplomatic missions in Israel; and there is no intention on the government's part to move it.

Senator KITCHING: So when the foreign minister says 'the biggest stumbling blocks to Australia moving the embassy to Jerusalem are financial and security issues', that doesn't imply that, in fact, consideration has been given to moving it, including the stumbling blocks?

Ms Adamson : As you know, newspaper articles are not always accurate. The position is as I've outlined it—both the position and of course the foreign minister's position.

Senator KITCHING: I want to compare the British diplomatic presence in Israel—I think the foreign minister referred to Britain's representation in Israel as a high commission. I will give you a quote from that event, where the foreign minister was speaking to Jewish community leaders. She said:

… let me have a look at what is happening in West Jerusalem. If there is a British High Commission there or a consulate of some description we can look at that.

Does Britain have a high commission in Israel or an embassy?

Mr Neuhaus : Can I just make a point about high commissions and embassies? In a way, it sort of reinforces the inaccuracy of the quotes there, because high commissions are only in Commonwealth countries—I can say that as a former political director of the Commonwealth Secretariat—and Israel has never been a Commonwealth country. The British have an embassy, which is in Tel Aviv. They have inherited over the years—and it goes back a very long way; I think now over century—a consulate general, I think it is now, in Jerusalem.

Senator KITCHING: These are quotes taken from the foreign minister speaking at a function with Jewish community leaders. The point you are making is the point I am making.

Mr Neuhaus : I'm glad.

Senator KITCHING: Good. While we're in that part of the Middle East I'll go to Gaza. I want to ask about the World Vision, Gaza, Hamas, aid diversion case, which I think is still unresolved.

Mr Neuhaus : It is still unresolved, yes.

Senator KITCHING: I think that at this committee we've certainly spoken about DFAT's suspension of funding to World Vision in, if we can call them this, the Palestinian Territories.

Mr Neuhaus : Yes.

Senator KITCHING: You undertook an internal review?

Mr Neuhaus : We did. It may be that Mr McDonald would also like to talk to this, because he has been heavily involved in that with some of the staff on the development side.

Senator KITCHING: Thank you.

Mr McDonald : The answer is: yes, there has been a management review done within the agency.

Senator KITCHING: And World Vision International and World Vision Australia also launched reviews—is that right? I think they were investigations, really.

Mr McDonald : There were three reviews that went on. One was our internal departmental review; there was a World Vision Australia review, which was around their management of the program; and then there was a World Vision International review which is around a forensic review of the program. They've all been completed.

Senator KITCHING: But not publicly released?

Mr McDonald : No, they haven't, because the court case is still underway, as you know. The next hearing, I think, is scheduled for December—the fifth, I think from memory. So at this stage they're not being made public, pending the completion of that court case.

Senator KITCHING: Once that matter's finalised in the court, will you then release your findings?

Mr McDonald : The World Vision reports are a matter for them.

Senator KITCHING: But yours?

Mr McDonald : Yes, of course we can provide our report to you. The recommendations were really around some management aspects of our program, which we've already implemented and put in place. Yes, we've actioned it. Yes, I'm happy to take that on notice and provide that at an appropriate time.

Senator KITCHING: Okay. Not just in this particular instance but where funding has been suspended, what are your processes for lifting that suspension? What do you do in that regard?

Mr McDonald : It depends on the circumstances. As you know, the allegations that have been made here are very serious in relation to diversion of our aid program funding. Quite rightly, the Australian taxpayer wants assurance that that's not occurring. When we get something like that, our practice in the past—not just with this—is to suspend that funding immediately pending the outcome of the investigation or the court case, and then we can make a decision based on that on what future action we take. I don't think it's really an option for us to end that suspension ahead of that being resolved, and I think our partners understand that. I think World Vision understand that as well.

Senator KITCHING: Thank you. I might go slightly east and go to Syria and Iraq. We had a discussion yesterday in Defence estimates around our presence in the Middle East and whether there might be a continued presence. All ISIL or Daesh elements have been removed from Mosul. Raqqa has recently been liberated. It's our understanding that Mosul is fully under the control of the government of Iraq?

Mr Neuhaus : I'm happy to answer that. That is indeed the case now.

Senator KITCHING: Lovely. That's good news, I think.

Mr Neuhaus : Yes, it is very good news.

Senator KITCHING: When you look at the pictures of Mosul, it's quite heartbreaking, I think. There are obviously going to be large reconstruction costs, and there was an article in The Economist, probably a couple of months ago, saying that it would be well over US$1 billion. Are we going to be involved in any way in those reconstruction projects?

Mr Neuhaus : As you know, Senator Kitching—and can I pay tribute to your own visit to the region—we—

Senator WONG: You had to bring that up, didn't you?

Senator KITCHING: I enjoyed every moment of it.

Senator WONG: All very loving!

Mr Neuhaus : It's very important. We already have in place a humanitarian package, both for Syria and for Iraq, and we will be looking at stabilisation elements in that. We can go into more detail, if you wish, and I think I will also be assisted by Mr Jamie Isbister in talking to that package.

Senator KITCHING: Yes, thank you. I'd like to know more.

Mr Isbister : I think as Matthew outlined, in both Syria and Iraq the government's announced multiyear packages both in response to the ongoing humanitarian needs from those crises and to begin looking at how we can creatively support recovery and stabilisation, acknowledging, particularly in Iraq, that there's been progress. As you mentioned, it's still very early days in Mosul. Although the immediate conflict has, in the main, finished, there are still a lot of issues around communities returning, in terms of de-mining and whatever else. Our support not only is going to continue to the meet the needs of those displaced, providing basic humanitarian support—food and health assistance—but also is already looking at how it can support some of the de-mining efforts, which allow communities to return. There's been some support already to the United Nations Development Program, which has established a stabilisation fund predominantly focused on trying to get basic services back up and running in areas where communities are returning. That could be water utilities, electricity, et cetera. And beyond that, we are obviously looking at how some of the community reconciliation efforts can also be supported—the softer, but equally important, parts of recovery following the crisis. For the Iraq one, it's a $110 million commitment: $10 million for the last financial year and $100 million over the next three years. And, as I said, it will be addressing not only that humanitarian component but also the stabilisation components.

Senator KITCHING: Did you say community—

Mr Isbister : Supporting reconciliation to communities that have been displaced or where there's been sectarian tension, or whatever else. Part of communities returning back, who have potentially been separated for some time, is about how that support, et cetera, can be provided. Often it's done through the delivery of practical programs, like education or child safe programs, et cetera.

Senator KITCHING: There are obviously areas of Syria that are safe for return—relatively speaking—probably. Would we be encouraging that?

Mr Isbister : I think at the moment, until the environment is safe and UNHCR, who has the agency response for that, has arrangements and confidence that safe returns can be done, our view is they shouldn't necessarily be supported. At the moment, most of our support in response to the Syria issue is inside Syria—there are some people who have been displaced internally who are returning—and then Lebanon and Jordan, where there are a small number at the moment but the majority of Syrian refugees remain in those countries.

Senator KITCHING: Are we doing it through NGOs? We obviously have Defence personnel in Iraq, but we don't have any other DFAT staff on the ground, do we?

Mr Isbister : In the Syria package?

Senator KITCHING: Yes.

Mr Isbister : We have an embassy in Amman and an embassy in Beirut. We do have humanitarian officers in both those.

Senator KITCHING: I think I met—

Mr Neuhaus : Yes. Probably Sarah—

Senator KITCHING: Yes. Impressive.

Mr Isbister : They have a role in terms of oversighting our support and assistance, both in Jordan and in Lebanon, and also in monitoring some of the cross-border assistance inside Syria. Most of our assistance is with trusted UN multilateral partners, and there is also funding that goes to NGOs, and I think you saw some of that. Again, some of that's around how to look at the issues around the child protection needs and education needs of children who have been displaced, in Lebanon and Jordan particularly.

Senator KITCHING: Yes. In Iraq, we really only have ADF personnel; is that correct?

Mr Neuhaus : It's not quite like that, as you're aware.

Senator KITCHING: I was just recently in Iraq with the ADF.

Mr Neuhaus : First of all, we do have an embassy in Iraq—in Baghdad—and we do have some ADF personnel who are engaged in a training role.

Senator KITCHING: Yes; training and advising.

Ms Adamson : We have an ambassador. The conditions there, as you know, are very demanding in a security sense, and they require very careful protection. But we do have a small number of staff who are able to fulfil basic diplomatic functions, including quite a bit of liaison with the Iraqi authorities over practical things such as visas and other permits to enable the ADF to operate in the way that it does. But when there are occasional visits by the Prime Minister or ministers to Baghdad to meet their counterparts, as they do, and to visit our troops, we have a fully functioning embassy there to support them. Indeed, the continuing security arrangements for our embassies in Baghdad and Kabul were the subject of an NPP in the last budget, and we received funding in order to be able to continue to maintain our presence there.

Senator KITCHING: Just in relation to reconstruction projects, there have been some reports that Turkey is seeking to have quite an active involvement in reconstruction projects. Is there any strategic significance in that? I'm thinking: here's Turkey, the Kurdish areas; these are very fluid situations.

Mr Neuhaus : Of course, and Turkey is a member of the coalition, and Turkey, as a neighbouring country and significant power in the region, does play an important role and will play a role in reconstruction.

Senator KITCHING: I think that's all I have on that. I can go to other parts.

CHAIR: Other parts of the world?

Senator KITCHING: No, other parts of the Middle East.

Senator WONG: I'll try to whip through a few things, if I may, Chair.

CHAIR: Yes, we have a couple of minutes before the break.

Senator WONG: Firstly, just very quickly, on the decision by the United States to withdraw from the Paris Agreement on climate change, can I ask: have we expressed formally Australia's opposition to or concern with the administration's decision?

Mr Suckling : Yes, we have, consistent with the public comments that we discussed last time on the record.

Senator WONG: Consistent with the disappointing comments.

Mr Suckling : Yes.

Senator WONG: Is Australia still playing a role in international climate change negotiations?

Mr Suckling : A strong role, yes.

Senator WONG: Has the department advised the minister on the consequences of the US withdrawal from the accords?

Mr Suckling : Yes, we have.

Senator WONG: Does the department consider that the agreement can continue to be effective?

Mr Suckling : Yes.

Senator WONG: This is probably not a question for you, but is there any reason why, in the joint statement by Ms Bishop and Mr Frydenberg, we don't actually say we're disappointed by the decision until the very last paragraph?

Mr Suckling : It's not a question for me, but we have expressed disappointment.

Senator Brandis: What's your point, Senator?

Senator WONG: I'm just wondering why we weren't prepared to be more up-front about it—on this we do have a difference of view with the US.

Senator Brandis: It's in the statement.

Senator WONG: Buried right at the end. I just wondered.

Senator Brandis: It's not a very long statement.

Senator WONG: I have plenty more, Mr Suckling, but we've spent a lot of time on other matters. I want to just quickly go to the ASEAN communique.

Ms Adamson : Ask away.

Senator WONG: I am waiting for someone to move to the table. I'm being polite. On the joint communique issued at the 50th ASEAN foreign ministers meeting, there's obviously some comment in that under regional and international issues in relation to the South China Sea.

CHAIR: Sorry, Mr Green; it being 3.30, I'm looking forward to hearing from you when we return after the break.

Proceedings suspended from 15:30 to 15:48

CHAIR: We will now return to Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade estimates, with the non-trade program of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. Secretary, you had some updates for senators?

Ms Adamson : Thank you, Chair. I do have some updates.

CHAIR: And we might just take it slowly.

Ms Adamson : We will take it very slowly. As it happens, they're all updates relating to questions taken earlier today by Mr Green, and as he is at the table, I think it's only right that he should read into the record and table what was requested earlier.

CHAIR: Okay.

Mr Green : Thank you, Secretary; thank you, Chair. This morning, Senator McKim asked about the statement made by a group of ambassadors following their visit to Rakhine State, on 2 October, and I have a copy of that statement which I would like to be tabled, please. Senator Abetz asked questions including when an arms embargo was first placed on Myanmar, and I think it is consistent with the evidence I gave this morning, Australia imposed an arms embargo on Myanmar in 1991. Senator Abetz also asked questions about the point at which a Defence attache was announced to be part of our embassy in Yangon. It is correct that then Prime Minister Gillard announced in March 2013, during a visit by then Myanmar President U Thein Sein, that Australia would increase its support in Myanmar in recognition of the progress towards democracy, including lifting some restrictions on Defence engagement and posting a Defence attache while maintaining an arms embargo. Finally, Senator Macdonald asked questions about the access of the UN fact-finding mission to Myanmar. Our Myanmar team has checked with our embassy in Yangon and understands that the government of Myanmar has not granted access yet to the UN fact-finding mission.

CHAIR: Thank you, and that was a perfectly timed response. Senator Wong?

Senator WONG: Thank you, I was asking some questions about the ASEAN communique and, in particular, the paragraphs that dealt with the South China Sea, 191 to 197. What engagement, if any, or what knowledge, did Australia have in the lead-up to the inclusion of those paragraphs in the communique?

Mr Green : Across our embassies and high commissions in ASEAN and with other like-minded countries we had a number of discussions leading into the conclusion of the ASEAN foreign ministers meeting statement. You understand, Senator Wong, that this is a statement for the ASEAN members and it was for them to settle. We have thoughts for our colleagues and partners in ASEAN about what issues are significant in relation to the South China Sea and what we would like to see given due attention, and we made those thoughts available to a range of ASEAN partners, including the chair.

Senator WONG: Is it to say that those paragraphs differ from Australia's current position in relation to the issues touched upon? I'm being as diplomatic as I can in asking that question.

Mr Green : There would be differences of nuance, but there are some important markers laid down in this statement which we were satisfied to see were in it.

Senator WONG: What were you satisfied to see in it?

Mr Green : We were satisfied to see that there was continuing concern expressed by ministers about issues relating to land reclamation—I’m reading now from the statement—that says: 'which have eroded trust and confidence, increased tensions and may undermine peace, security and stability in the region.' We were pleased that there were references to legal processes and, in particular, in paragraph 193—

Senator WONG: Correct, yes, I've got it. I don't need it read, thank you very much. Clearly, there's no reference to the decision of the arbitral tribunal.

Mr Green : No reference to the decision of the arbitral tribunal.

Senator WONG: Ms Adamson, just very quickly, Mr Dutton's previous comments, which were caught on microphone, I think, in September 2015 when Mr Abbott was Prime Minister said: 'Time doesn't mean anything when you're about to have water lapping at your door.' Over the last couple of years, I assume that that has been raised with Australia by some Pacific island nations, Kiribati, and so forth. What has the government's approach been and what has the department's approach been to remedying the damage caused by those remarks?

Ms Adamson : Senator, not to my knowledge has it been raised, but let me ask Mr Sloper to return to the table. As you know, I became secretary only in August last year. In my contacts with my Pacific counterparts and other meetings I've been involved in it has not been raised with me, referred to or alluded to in any way.

Mr Sloper : I'm not aware of formal representation made on those specific comments. Certainly, in line with evidence I gave earlier today, there's ongoing discussion in the region about the importance of action on climate change. In terms of what our government has done, if you wish, I can outline some of the things we've done since that point. Most prominently though, when Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull attended the PIF two years ago, committed to stepping up Australia's engagement in the Pacific and also made an announcement of our support for action on climate change within the region and announced $300 million over four years. That reflects a broader program pushed out through our bilateral and regional programs. It has a focus on building resilience on priorities identified with partner governments, and it also has a focus on research that leads to science and reporting that informs our own policy making. Of course, when extreme event occur, we help in terms of the response.

Senator WONG: So no more jokes about lapping at the door. I assume?

Mr Sloper : Senator, you may want to clarify jokes by whom or to whom and I could answer the question?

Senator WONG: You do remember Mr Dutton's jokes. Of course you do. Can I just turn now to the Human Rights Council, firstly to Mr Ruddock. We had a long exchange in the budget estimates between me and Dr Strahan. Is he here?

Ms Adamson : No, he's not here today. But we do have—

Senator WONG: Okay. You explained that Mr Ruddock was appointed until the 31 October. Is that still the term of the appointment?

Ms Adamson : That is still the term of the appointment.

Senator WONG: He has been elected the mayor of Hornsby, which was reported on the 10 September 2017. Is he both the special envoy and the mayor of Hornsby, currently?

Ms Adamson : Well, in fact, as you know, Senator, the special envoy's services were only provided on an 'as required' basis and his services have not, in fact, been required in the period since he released a statement announcing his intention to contest the mayoralty of Hornsby Shire Council.

Senator WONG: What was the date of that?

Ms Adamson : That was, as I have it, on 8 August.

Senator WONG: He announced on 8 August: 'I'm going to contest', and from that date DFAT—engaged is the wrong word—utilised his services? Is that correct?

Ms Adamson : I just want to confirm I have the dates. My colleagues have been dealing with him on this. They can run through the dates on which he was involved in that role.

Ms Wilde : The last engagement that Mr Ruddock had with the department was on the 10 August when he participated in the 14th Annual Australia-Vietnam Human Rights Dialogue in Canberra.

Senator WONG: Was that the last occasion for which he was paid?

Ms Wilde : That is right.

Senator WONG: That is after he announced he was running.

Ms Adamson : My apologies, Senator, it was arranged beforehand. The date was fixed. He participated in it, and then, as I've just said, two days earlier he released a statement on his intention to contest.

Senator WONG: Okay, so, he was paid for only a single day post the announcement that he's going to contest the mayoral election, is that right?

Ms Wilde : Yes. Those dialogues were held in Canberra. He was only paid for his day in Canberra.

Senator WONG: Were you aware ahead of the announcement? Did he tell DFAT: 'I'm going to run for Hornsby mayor', so it would not be appropriate to continue to be paid by the government?

Ms Adamson : I had a conversation with the special envoy—I guess it would've been in July—and he said to me that he was considering various other options, but there was no detail given about what those may be.

Senator WONG: What were the options?

Ms Adamson : He didn't run through them. We were talking about what he might do after he stopped being active as special envoy.

Senator WONG: After he stopped?

Ms Adamson : Being active.

Senator WONG: Okay. So, was it agreed there that, if he pursued public office in some other forum, he wouldn't continue to be paid?

Ms Adamson : It wasn't that kind of discussion.

Senator WONG: Okay. Is he still technically a special envoy?

Ms Adamson : His contract officially ceases on 31 October, but, once it became clear that France had withdrawn from the bid, there was no need for him to travel or engage directly on the campaign.

Senator WONG: Okay. When did France indicate withdrawal?

Ms Wilde : It formally indicated, on 14 July, that it would withdraw from the campaign.

Senator WONG: Why didn't you cut his contract short?

Ms Adamson : Well, there was no need for his services. He was only going to be paid for activities that he undertook on the campaign or in related activities such as the Human Rights Council.

Senator WONG: So, there's no retainer, he just gets paid per diem, as that right?

Ms Adamson : That's right.

Senator WONG: In relation to our seat on the Human Rights Council, I did have—broadly. Given the time I won't do 'broadly'. I want to ask about Cambodia. I would like to ask for an assessment, if one of my colleagues hasn't done this already, of the human rights situation in Cambodia and how Australia plans to utilise our position on the Human Rights Council to positively influence human rights in Cambodia? It's not that I, you know, always want Mr Green at the table. Did you bring the right folder?

Mr Green : Thank you, Senator, for your concern!

Senator WONG: My suggestion would be that you bring both up each time and then you are not caught short. Human rights in Cambodia.

Mr Green : Human rights in Cambodia. Senator, the government has a range of concerns about human rights developments in recent times in Cambodia, in particular, the narrowing of the democratic space, particularly ahead of Cambodia's national election scheduled for July of next year. We're particularly concerned about restrictions on freedom for opposition parties, civil society and media organisations to play their part in Cambodia's democracy. The arrest of the main opposition leader, Kem Sokha, on 3 September and other recent actions on 6 October aimed at dissolving the main opposition party, in particular, represent a significant deterioration of the political situation. Freedom of expression and association, a vibrant media and an active opposition are essential elements of a successful democracy. We've urged the Cambodian authorities to take all necessary measures to maintain open and democratic space in which all voices can be heard and democratic participation is not restricted.

Senator WONG: You mentioned the opposition leader, Kem Sokha, who, I think, was arrested in September.

Mr Green : That's right.

Senator WONG: In part on what the reports were—I am not in a position to verify that—and part the basis of that arrest was that the opposition leader had made a speech in Melbourne in 2013.

Mr Green : That is as we understand it. It was a speech where it is alleged he made comments inferring or relating to the possibility of a change of government in Cambodia along the lines that happened in Yugoslavia in the 1990s.

Senator WONG: Has the government expressed any view about the arrest and imprisonment? Has he been imprisoned?

Mr Green : He is in detention, yes.

Senator WONG: Yes, he's been detained. Has the government expressed a view on the arrest and detention of the Cambodian opposition leader?

Mr Green : Yes, we certainly have.

Senator WONG: I would like to know at which level.

Mr Green : The ambassador has consistently made representations to the Cambodian government on the issue. We've raised our concerns in meetings with a range of Cambodian government representatives. Our acting ambassador made early high-level representations to the ministry of foreign affairs on 4 September. The ambassador raised her concerns with the Cambodian foreign minister, Prak Sokhon, alongside counterparts from Canada, the EU, France, Japan, the UK and the US on 12 September. The embassy has issued statements on this matter outlining Australia's concerns on 4 September and 11 October. Our ambassador again met with the foreign minister, Prak Sokhon, on 11 October to reiterate our strong concerns. The secretary, Frances Adamson, raised our concerns during her meeting with the Cambodian Secretary of State for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, David Luy, on 18 September. Australia has also raised our concerns in the Human Rights Council. On 26 September, Australia made a statement during the interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Cambodia, expressing concerns at the shrinking of the democratic space and, in particular, the arrest of Kem Sohka. On 29 September, the Australian government statement at the conclusion of the session stated, 'We urge Cambodia to allow all Cambodians to fully realise their rights to freedom, expression, assembly and association.'

Senator WONG: Very strong statements have been made inter alia by Ted Cruz, the US senator, having written to the Cambodian ambassador in the US, suggesting the potential for individually based sanctions. The Swedish human rights ambassador has suggested that there might be a consideration of rethinking engagement with Cambodia. There's been other statements made by the EU. You'd agree with the assessment that a number of significant nations and the EU have made strong representations about the situation in Cambodia, including making suggestions about the nature of the engagement.

Mr Green : Australia has expressed its concern in company with the many other countries you have identified.

Senator WONG: I saw that we have now established senior official talks as of—was it last week?

Mr Green : I believe it was earlier this week.

Senator WONG: Earlier this week?

Mr Green : I am sorry. It was last week. You are right.

Senator WONG: The Australian government and the Royal Government of Cambodia signed a memorandum of understanding to establish senior official talks. It was reported in the media as including our ambassador toasting upgrades in a ceremony, including champagne, with the Cambodian Minister of Foreign Affairs. I just wondered if you could explain to us the juxtaposition between those images and the concerns you've outlined.

Mr Green : It's an unfortunate juxtaposition. Australia's Ambassador to Cambodia, Angela Corcoran, was invited to the signing ceremony by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation. The ministry didn't provide full details about the arrangements for the ceremony in advance. The ministry issued a press release announcing the signing ceremony shortly before the ceremony on 18 October. The embassy wasn't consulted or advised prior to this being issued. After the press release had been issued, and just prior to the ceremony, Cambodian officials advised the embassy that the media had been invited and that there would be a toast. The embassy asked the Cambodian officials not to proceed with the toast. The ministry advised that it was an important protocol in light of the minister's attendance and if the signing was to proceed. The ambassador was put in an invidious situation. Although she had not expected a toast as part of the event, and it had not been raised by Cambodian officials until just prior to the signing, she did not want to make an unnecessary issue of the situation and so proceeded with the signing ceremony.

Senator WONG: Thank you for that explanation.

Mr Green : Would you mind if I said two more things about that? First of all, it has been reported in the media that this is an upgrade of our bilateral relations with Cambodia. That's not the way I would characterise it. It's a new dimension, an extra dimension, of our relations with Cambodia. It's designed so that Australia will be able to engage with Cambodia on a range of significant issues across the bilateral relationship but, importantly, on democracy, human rights and regional security issues.

CHAIR: I was going to go to Senator McKim but, as he's not here, he will have to put his Cambodia questions on notice. Senator Abetz, do you have some questions?

Senator ABETZ: I've got a smorgasbord of questions for the department. The first one is for the corporate section, I dare say, about the negotiation of the enterprise agreement for your staff. It's a standard question I've been asking, and that is: were any side deals, arrangements, agreements or protocols entered into in the negotiation of the latest enterprise agreement?

Ms Mansfield : We're in the last year or so of our current enterprise agreement, so we haven't yet started to negotiate our next agreement. The situation at the moment is that we have standard contact with unions and so on, but we are not currently in the process of negotiating.

Senator ABETZ: When was the last enterprise agreement signed?

Ms Mansfield : It was signed about two years ago. It was just the one agreement, and it covered—

Senator ABETZ: There were no side deals?

Ms Mansfield : Correct. There were no side deals.

Senator ABETZ: That's all I need to know. That covers trade and foreign affairs.

Ms Mansfield : Correct. We're all one department.

Senator ABETZ: Because Defence has a separate one.

Ms Mansfield : They do.

Senator ABETZ: They told me that they were also clean in that regard. Well done! I trust that your negotiations for the new enterprise agreement ensure everything is in the enterprise agreement and no little sleazy side deals are done, as per some other departments, I've discovered—well done. Now I might go to Israel and Palestine. Who can assist with that? As I promised you, it's a smorgasbord—a few questions here and there.

Ms Adamson : Mr Neuhaus is on his way to the table.

Senator ABETZ: Do we examine the Palestinian Authority's budget, which is publicly available? I'm not asking whether we send the auditors in or anything like that, but do we have a look at that which is publicly available?

Mr Neuhaus : It is not something that we focus on.

Senator ABETZ: But do you look at it? I'm not asking for the depth of it; all I asked was: do we have a look at it?

Mr McDonald : For all our programs, we have processes in place to monitor the program—expenditure—

Senator ABETZ: 'Monitor' is a good word.

Mr McDonald : We monitor checks and balances, if you like.

Senator ABETZ: Do we know how much foreign aid all-up the Palestinian Authority receives from around the world?

Mr McDonald : We would know that, but we'd have to take that on notice.

Senator ABETZ: Are you able to tell me how much from Australia—if need be, you can take that on notice as well.

Mr McDonald : Yes, we'll take it on notice.

Senator ABETZ: Does the Palestinian Authority pay families who have family members in prison or have been killed, to quote the Palestinian Authority, 'in the struggle against Zion'?

Mr McDonald : I've seen those reports. Certainly, in relation to our aid program, I can confirm that that's not the case. I don't know if Mr Neuhaus wants to add—

Senator ABETZ: I wasn't asking about the aid program. I'm asking whether the Palestinian Authority, to your knowledge, pay families who have family members in prison or have been killed, to quote the Palestinian Authority, 'in the struggle against Zion'. I'm not asking where the money is coming from, just whether that is, in fact, a correct statement.

Mr Neuhaus : Yes, there are such payments.

Senator ABETZ: Did the Palestinian Authority's latest budget boost those payments by 13 per cent?

Mr Neuhaus : I have heard reports of that, but I would have to confirm the detail.

Senator ABETZ: If you could, please. I understand that, with that boost, it is now at a total of $344 million. Could you check that as well.

Mr Neuhaus : We will check that.

Senator ABETZ: Somebody who is better at maths than me asserts that this equals 49.6 per cent of all foreign aid paid to the Palestinian Authority. Whilst I accept foreign aid money may not be used for that purpose, clearly foreign aid money is used for purposes that then frees up this $344 million to encourage the struggle against Zion. I am very concerned about that. With all those questions being taken on notice, I look forward to your responses.

Senator KITCHING: There is a very helpful piece of paper we were given before. Under 'Total activity approval amount 2017-18' at 9.36 it says 'committed 8.42'. Are these country and regional programs. Is that what I'm looking at here?

Mr Neuhaus : I think that's right, but maybe Mr McDonald wants to comment.

Mr McDonald : What you have there, Senator, is against our allocations for the year—what expenditure has been committed for the year. I haven't got it in front of me.

Senator KITCHING: I'm happy to—

Mr McDonald : No, no, we've got it! But that's what it is—it shows how much of the expenditure this year has been committed in contracts or whatever.

Senator KITCHING: Are these the figures to which Senator Abetz is alluding? Are these the budgetary—

Mr McDonald : I think not. I think Senator Abetz was talking about the Palestinian Authority. This is the Palestinian territories.

Senator ABETZ: Regarding the United Nations, and, first of all, the Human Rights Council—supposedly, we scored a good little victory in our pursuit of that.

Ms Adamson : We did.

Senator ABETZ: Was that assisted by the withdrawal of France from the competition? Are we allowed to talk about any reason that France may or may not have for withdrawing?

Ms Adamson : Of course we are able to do that. It's our assessment that, having run a purposeful campaign over an extended period of time, Australia had, in fact, achieved a number of votes which led the French to decide that they would not be able to defeat us. It was, as I'm sure you know—

Senator ABETZ: So, did they 'get with the strength' and support us?

Ms Adamson : There were three WEOG candidates for two positions: Australia, France and Spain. Australia and Spain had been particularly active in the campaign, and our heads of mission, our ministers and the Prime Minister had been very active in support of our candidacy. I think it became clear to the French—whether or not they were distracted by their own election is a moot point—that they couldn't win. Mr McDonald has taken a very close interest in all of this, so he may want to add to that.

Mr McDonald : To add to the secretary's comments, the French ministry of foreign affairs released a statement on 14 July, which you may have seen, that said France had decided to support Spain's candidacy, as the two countries share the same European values and would speak with a single voice on the HRC. So, that's the official reason for—

Senator ABETZ: So, they withdrew but backed the wrong horse!

Ms Adamson : They found a graceful way of withdrawing, which did not—

Senator ABETZ: Upset their neighbours.

Ms Adamson : harm their P5 status, or, indeed, their neighbours.

Senator ABETZ: They do have New Caledonia relatively close to us, but, chances are, Spain was more important to them. I understand that. I understand the Prime Minister is visiting Israel next week?

Ms Adamson : Yes.

Senator ABETZ: With Australia's new role on the Human Rights Council, are we working to lower the number of condemnations of Israel and focus on some of the real issues and get the Human Rights Council to work on the many other nations in the Middle East, rather than pick on Israel all the time?

Ms Adamson : We take up our seat on 1 January, and we will then focus on some particular areas which have been part of our campaign and which we've talked about previously. I am sure Ms Wilde could do that again. We very much want the council to focus on its core role. Our involvement in the council, even simply as a member of the UN without a seat on the council, has been designed to be constructed in the way that you've mentioned. It has a significant role to play, and we want to be an active contributor in areas which we've identified as being priority.

Senator ABETZ: Well, I just hope that that's what we do. Who is our expert on the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights? I understand that there are a few issues being considered. The first one is an assertion—and advise me whether that's right or not—that the UN Human Rights Committee is currently drafting a legal commentary on article 6 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, aimed at excluding the unborn child's right to life in international law. Who can tell me about whether that is happening?

Ms Wilde : The ICCPR is actually led by the Attorney-General's Department, not DFAT.

Senator ABETZ: Isn't it fortunate the Attorney is here? I accept that, in that case, chances are I wrote to the wrong minister when I asked about this some time ago, and I trust the good foreign minister will flick it to you, Attorney.

Senator Brandis: Indeed, Senator Abetz. But I can tell you—giving a little latitude to your question—that Australia has been recently participating in the Universal Periodic Review, and I actually responded to some questions about this on Tuesday in the Attorney-General's estimates. Australia has been praised as one of the strong rights-respecting nations of the world. Having said that, there have been some critical remarks made about various aspects of Australian policy. That's what you expect at this review, because the review is meant to be a critical assessment of every nation's human rights record. The final statement of the review is in preparation at the moment, so we don't have a final report, but the officers of my department who attended were well pleased with the good reception Australia received.

Senator ABETZ: But what is the government's policy and advocacy in relation to this? Please bear with me, given that this isn't technically Foreign Affairs, but it sort of is. Have we said that the unborn child's right to life in international law should continue to be protected?

Senator Brandis: Let me take that on notice. I'm not aware that we have made a submission on that particular issue.

Senator ABETZ: I would encourage the government to do so.

Senator Brandis: Yes.

Senator ABETZ: Thank you. The other one that I've been told about, courtesy of the media, is that the United Kingdom, clearly with nothing else on its mind, is moving to change the term in the ICCPR from 'pregnant woman' to 'pregnant person'—clearly a burning matter of great international importance, but it's the sort of politically correct nonsense. I would have thought it's women that fall pregnant, but has Australia made any representations?

Senator Brandis: Again, I'm not aware that we have done so. I'm pretty sure the answer to your question is no, but again I'll take that on notice and have it checked.

Senator ABETZ: All right. Moving to the inspired—

Ms Adamson : Excuse me, Senator. You asked a question earlier about the Human Rights Council and its condemnations of Israel.

Senator ABETZ: Yes.

Ms Adamson : I gave an answer, but if you'd allow me the opportunity to supplement that—

Senator ABETZ: Yes, of course.

Ms Adamson : I think I have some things that may be of interest to you.

Senator ABETZ: This is actually in the portfolio, so—

Ms Adamson : It is. Australia has an in-principle opposition to item 7 on the HRC's agenda—that's the one titled, 'Human rights situation in Palestine and other occupied Arab territories'. We think it's not appropriate to have a specific agenda item in relation to a single country or situation. Those specific country issues are considered under agenda item 4. At present, Australia does not participate in negotiations on item 7 resolutions. We have a junior official who remains at the desk to observe the formal session, but we don't participate. No decision has yet been made on how Australia will vote on item 7 resolutions as a member of the HRC. But as a matter of principle, we have been consistent in our position that we do not support one-sided resolutions which target Israel.

Senator ABETZ: That is good to hear. Can I move on to the 'inspired' decision of the World Health Organization to appoint Mr Mugabe as a goodwill ambassador. I trust Australia had something to say about that?

Ms Adamson : We did indeed.

Senator ABETZ: Good! Take on notice what was said and done. I understand—

Ms Adamson : We were very active, including over the weekend, in ensuring that our views were registered.

Mr McDonald : In fact the Minister for Health wrote a letter, which we were consulted on over the weekend. Of course, there was very quick action from a number of countries in relation to that and that appointment's now been rescinded.

Senator ABETZ: Moving to the Anglosphere, has consideration been given to a potential CANZUK agreement between Canada, New Zealand, Australia and the United Kingdom, and could such an agreement build on our existing Five Eyes agreement?

Ms Adamson : Would you like to give me perhaps a better sense of it?

Senator ABETZ: Is this more for Trade?

Ms Adamson : Five Eyes is of course Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the UK and the US—

CHAIR: It might be for Trade.

Senator ABETZ: I'm more than happy to deal with that in Trade.

Ms Adamson : Right.

Senator ABETZ: Can we move to Indonesia. I was provided with an answer to question on notice 022 from budget estimates—'Indonesia and Governor Ahok'. I was told, at the very end of the answer:

On 22 May 2017, Ahok withdrew his appeal and accepted the court’s decision.

Was that a proactive acceptance of the court's decision, or did some people just raise the white flag and say, 'Look, the appeal process is such that it's not worth pursuing', and walk away from it? That is one thing, but to tell me that he had accepted the court's decision sounds as though it was a proactive decision by him that it was a fair and reasonable penalty in all the circumstances. I would trust that that's not the case.

Mr Connor : It was, as portrayed in the media reports and from the information we've received from our post, a decision of the former governor himself. I don't think we could speculate as to what his reasoning was as to whether he felt—

Senator ABETZ: Did he say he proactively accepted the decision, or did he simply say he wasn't appealing?

Mr Connor : He said he wasn't appealing.

Senator ABETZ: Without being too picky, could I invite the drafters of these answers to be somewhat more careful because to walk away from an appeal is different to acceptance of the court's decision, which nearly seems a proactive decision on his part. But I won't take it any further. I have my answer in relation to that now, and thank you for that clarification. Who can tell me about the situation of violence against Christians in Pakistan? I was given an answer on notice—030.

Ms Klugman : The South and West Asia Division includes Pakistan. I do have a copy of your—

Ms Adamson : Yes, I have it right here.

Senator ABETZ: Questions, yes. The first line said:

Christians and other minorities in Pakistan can face societal discrimination …

Once again, without wanting to be too picky, can we say, 'Thank you, Secretary; I could read your lips'? They actually do—rather than suggesting they might from time to time. It's pretty endemic, from what I've been told by people who have been to and from Pakistan on a regular basis. Can we agree that they do face—

Ms Klugman : Point taken, Senator.

Senator ABETZ: Thank you. I don't want to be too picky. But, for those who make representations to me, they read answers like that and say, 'Look, in fact, they actually do, and it's very regular.' What do we do about it? Have we ever given thought to saying to Pakistan, 'Enough's enough'? Do we go as far as—and I wish media weren't listening to this, because undoubtedly they will try to blow this up—some sort of sports or cricket boycott or something to get them to ensure that people's human rights, and these are fundamental human rights, are actually protected?

Ms Klugman : Yes, Senator. And some of the examples of abuse of those rights are just spine chilling. Yes, we do raise this matter quite regularly with the government of Pakistan. In fact, the treatment of Christians and other minority groups in Pakistan is, I would say, a top human rights related priority in our dialogue with the government of Pakistan.

Senator ABETZ: Good. If I may quickly finish on a happier note, who would like to tell me a bit about the New Colombo Plan? That was an inspired policy that we worked on in opposition, Attorney, with the shadow minister for foreign affairs, and, as I understand it, by the end of next year, we hope to have nearly cracked 30,000 students through the program. Are we on track to achieve that?

Ms Adamson : Picking up your point, I think every person in the room could come forward to the table and tell you quite a bit—all very positive indeed, as you put it—about the New Colombo Plan. I myself have the pleasure of chairing the New Colombo Plan advisory board, but a lot of the work is done in Mr Byrne's division, so I'll ask him to respond in the sort of detail that I know you're looking for.

Senator ABETZ: Great, thank you.

Mr Byrne : The program is indeed on track. This is the year at which the funding, which has been escalating year on year, reaches its zenith, as it were, of $51 million per year, and it will plateau at that level for the foreseeable future. What that means is that, from 2018, we'll be sending over 13,000 mobility students to countries around the Indo-Pacific, and these are the—

Senator ABETZ: Sorry, what are 'mobility students'?

Mr Byrne : I was just about to explain. There are two elements to the program. There are mobility awards, under which we invite universities to submit proposals to take groups of students on relatively shorter term visits to undertake study or fieldwork or exchanges with universities in the Indo-Pacific. So over 13,000 students in 2018 will be going out to the Indo-Pacific. Then we have the scholarship program, which is for longer term periods of study of up to 19 months at universities across the Indo-Pacific. In most cases, there's also an element of internships, often with businesses around the Indo-Pacific. That number has also been increasing. We've just completed the interviews for the scholarship round for 2018. It's a highly competitive process.

Senator ABETZ: Yes, it is.

Mr Byrne : I have to say, having been part of that process, that it's been extraordinarily rewarding—

Senator ABETZ: Not as an applicant?

Mr Byrne : not as an applicant, no; as the chair of one of the panels—just to see the quality of young Australians who are coming through that process, really some quite remarkable young people. In the coming weeks we expect to finalise the outcome of that round and have around 120 students going out on scholarships around the Indo-Pacific in 2018.

To date, between those two programs, we've supported students travelling to 36 participating countries around the Indo-Pacific. Of course, the broader objective of the program is to build a cohort, or really a generation, of young Australians who've had on-the-ground exposure and on-the-ground educational experiences and, in many cases, work experiences in the Indo-Pacific. Now that the numbers are escalating, that cohort is building rapidly. By the end of next year, as you said, Senator, we'll have approximately 30,000 young Australians who will have participated in the New Colombo Plan in its first four years, and that number will continue to increase by over 10,000 a year thereafter. So we're now building a very substantial alumni community within Australia, a very active alumni community, of former scholars and mobility students.

Senator ABETZ: I assume this New Colombo Plan is very much welcomed by those 36 countries that our students are going to.

Mr Byrne : It is, certainly. In fact, as you can imagine, we've received very positive feedback, strongly positive feedback, from the students themselves, the majority of whom describe it as a life-changing experience for them; very positive feedback from the Australian universities, which through the program are building stronger connections with universities around the Indo-Pacific; strong backing from the business community, both in Australia and overseas; and, as you said, last but not least, very strong positive feedback from governments around the region over the past few years. I will just give you a very quick kind of overview, if I may, of some of the positive feedback we've received from regional leaders. I won't go into detail about their remarks but just run through a quick overview. They include Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi—and I know the secretary wants to correct my pronunciation! Singapore's Prime Minister, Lee Hsien Loong, when he addressed parliament last year, made a very positive reference to the New Colombo Plan. Indonesia's foreign minister, Retno Marsudi, has done likewise, as has Malaysia's Prime Minister Najib; Prime Minister Dung, of Vietnam; former president Anote Tong, of Kiribati; and of course, also in their respective addresses to parliament, in 2014, President Xi Jinping and Prime Minister Abe, of Japan. So there is really quite an extensive list of positive feedback from regional governments, and that's really only at the head-of-government level.

Senator ABETZ: So it's all very positive. Thank you.

Senator McCARTHY: What are the department's expectations of heads of mission in relation to how they reflect on Australia when representing their country, Minister—or department?

Ms Adamson : Our expectations are that they will faithfully represent Australia, that they will accurately represent the sort of country we are. Those of them who are engaged in social media—which may possibly be your interest, Senator—are expected to do so actively and creatively and make a positive impact.

Senator McCARTHY: What are the department's expectations, though, of heads of mission in relation to how they reflect on Australian states and territories, in particular, and cities and towns when representing our country?

Ms Adamson : I would say accurately and professionally, but, if you'd like to tell me what your particular interest is, I will do my best to answer more specifically.

Senator McCARTHY: Okay, thank you. Just this week, there have been two days of defence summit talks in Darwin. And this week the Northern Territory Chief Minister spoke about defence and northern development and how they're inseparable, just as northern development and Aboriginal participation are inseparable, and how we could be launching rockets into space from Arnhem Land within a year. However, speaking at the American Australian Association's annual benefit dinner, where Dow Chemical managing director Andrew Liveris was honoured, Ambassador Hockey said that Darwin was 'barely a city'. Does Ambassador Hockey's statement reflect the view of the Australian government?

Senator BRANDIS: Senator McCarthy, that is not the view of the Australian government, but I'm not aware that Mr Hockey said that.

Senator GALLACHER: It's been widely reported.

Senator BRANDIS: Senator Gallacher, the fact that something may be widely reported in the media is absolutely no proof of its accuracy.

Senator GALLACHER: Not once, twice!

Senator BRANDIS: The department can approach Ambassador Hockey too. Also, we'll take that question on notice.

Senator McCARTHY: There's certainly been a lot of concern in the Northern Territory. The Lord Mayor of Darwin, Kon Vatskalis, said the comments are uninformed. Given these comments have been made publicly, will Mr Hockey be counselled about the language he's used when reflecting on Australian cities and towns?

Senator BRANDIS: As I've said, Senator McCarthy, you say it's a given; it's not a given, as far as I'm concerned, because it hasn't been verified. But we'll take the question on notice.

Senator McCARTHY: You may not have heard it but, clearly, a lot of other people who were present did.

Senator BRANDIS: You said it's been reported in the press. I have taken the question on notice.

Senator McCARTHY: In Minister Bishop's release on 14 May, 'Diplomatic Corps visit to Far North Queensland', it said it would provide:

… an insight into the diversity and dynamism of Queensland's economy, about the many trade and investment opportunities available.

Has Minister Bishop ever taken the diplomatic corps to the Northern Territory?

Ms Adamson : There has not been a visit to the Northern Territory yet, but I can say that there is one under active consideration.

Senator McCARTHY: Could you expand on that?

Ms Adamson : Ms Sachs is just reminding me that the last one was held—you asked about Minister Bishop—in 2004, so some time ago. I would personally say that I think the Northern Territory is overdue by for a visit by the diplomatic corps. You're asking about the Northern Territory, were you not?

Senator McCARTHY: That's right.

Ms Adamson : We visited Far North Queensland this year.

Senator BRANDIS: I'm sorry, Ms Adamson; I confused you.

Ms Adamson : Not since 2004 is the answer. These are not held every single year, but Minister Bishop has been very keen to do them. It will be for her to make an announcement, which she typically does at the DFAT end-of-year reception. The diplomatic corps waits with bated breath to know where they might be able to travel the following year. And, although no final decisions have been made, I know that a visit to the Northern Territory is under active consideration.

Senator McCARTHY: So 2004 was the last time? That's a long time.

Ms Adamson : But it doesn't happen every year—that's the thing.

Senator McCARTHY: It happens every 12 years?

Ms Adamson : What I mean is: there isn't a diplomatic corps visit every year.

Senator McCARTHY: So you're talking about the possibility, so it is obviously on the radar. Does Minister Bishop plan to give the diplomatic corps an insight into the diversity and dynamism of the Northern Territory economy?

Ms Adamson : That is always one of the underlying objectives of these visits and, in addition to states and territories, there are regions of Australia which are able to provide the sort of visit you described, and that was why the foreign minister hosted a visit by the diplomatic corps to Far North Queensland this year.

Senator McCARTHY: So Minister Bishop wouldn't consider that Darwin is barely a city—like Mr Hockey?

Senator BRANDIS: As I say, I'm sure Mr Hockey is not of that view, and I'm sure Ms Bishop is not of that view. Ms Bishop loves Darwin.

Senator GALLACHER: The Northern Territory readers are not of that view, I've got to tell you.

CHAIR: Can I just get an indication from the opposition when we're ready to move to the trade section of this department?

Senator GALLACHER: That'll be under active consideration. I have questions—I haven't asked a question, like Senator Fawcett or Senator Lambie.

CHAIR: Would you like to be on the list, Senator Gallacher?

Senator GALLACHER: I'm on the list. Trust me: we're not moving off this subject until I've asked some questions.

CHAIR: It's simply a question. I've had requests from people asking when we'll be moving to that section.

Senator GALLACHER: You can have 56 senators come in here and ask questions, and I'll still be waiting to ask mine.

CHAIR: No worries, Senator Gallacher. Senator Singh, you have the call.

Senator SINGH: Thank you, Chair. I want to ask some questions in relation to the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. I'm sure you're aware, Mr Sadleir, that the treaty was adopted by 122 nations at the UN on 7 July this year, after negotiation. It was open for signature at the UN ceremony on 20 September and, so far, 53 states have signed on. Was anyone from DFAT monitoring the June-July negotiation session?

Mr Sadleir : Good afternoon, Senator. Yes, I can tell you that we did have arrangements to monitor the proceedings. We asked staff at our permanent missions in New York and in Geneva to follow the proceedings closely, as their resources permitted.

We did that in a number of ways. Of course, through the UN webcast in real time was one of the opportunities, and they monitored various stages of the negotiations. We also got them to obtain and provide regular informal feedback and summaries to DFAT on the proceedings. This was supplemented by usual reporting. Additionally, we did go out to posts to try to canvas commentary from states on the proceedings. And also, officers within our division in Canberra were able to access the webcast to supplement the monitoring being undertaken in New York and Geneva.

So that gives you a sense of some of the things we were doing. We also tried to follow Twitter and civil society commentary, and attended the ad hoc briefings, which you would know occurred from UNODA, updating—

Senator SINGH: Did you say that DFAT attended the ad hoc briefings?

Mr Sadleir : Yes. I'm informed that our staff attended some of ad hoc briefings, updating UN delegations on developments, organised by UNODA. That's not part of the negotiations, but rather separate briefing processes in both Geneva and in New York.

Senator SINGH: Okay. Has the government made a final decision on whether to sign the treaty?

Mr Sadleir : Yes, we made a decision not to sign the treaty. Indeed, the foreign minister, on our recommendation, agreed to that—if you just bear with me for a moment—on 24 July. I'm very happy to articulate the reasons for that; I think that's appropriate.

As you know, Australia is committed to a world without nuclear weapons through implementation of the NPT, including article 6, in a step-by-step and verifiable manner. But we will not sign or ratify the ban or the prohibition treaty because we don't regard it as an effective measure to eliminate nuclear weapons. We consider it disregards the reality of the international security environment, highlighted by the grave threat posed by the DPRK. And the sweeping prohibitions in article 1 of the treaty are incompatible with our alliance with the United States and our reliance on extended nuclear deterrence.

So long as nuclear weapons exist, extended nuclear deterrence will be in Australia's fundamental national interest. We also take the view that the treaty is fundamentally flawed, and risks undermining the NPT. That may reflect the fact that it was negotiated very, very rapidly; it does not involve any of the states that possess nuclear weapons; no such states are likely to join; and it will not eliminate a single nuclear weapon. It does not include viable mechanisms for the elimination or reduction of nuclear weapons, or for maintaining a world free of nuclear weapons. And it also undermines the nuclear safeguard system.

So, that gives you a bit of a flavour of our reflections on the process.

Senator SINGH: Let's unpack that a little, shall we?

Mr Sadleir : Sure.

Senator SINGH: As you said, we're a party to the nuclear non-proliferation treaty and therefore legally required to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to nuclear disarmament—as you pointed out, in article 6. So, how is failing to participate in the negotiation process, or to send representation, consistent with our obligations under the NPT?

Mr Sadleir : Article 6 does not require Australia to negotiate or sign up to any disarmament treaty, including a ban treaty. It leaves us flexibility as to how to achieve nuclear disarmament. The ban treaty is not an effective measure to achieve nuclear disarmament, because it does not involve the nuclear weapons states or the nuclear possessing states. It does not involve a significant group of NPT parties and it lacks the effective legal, technical or verification arrangements. As you see, we're not obliged to engage in something which is not an effective measure. I might invite my colleague, if he wants to add anything to that.

Mr Larsen : On the basis of the terms of article 6, where we look at three key elements—effective measures relating to the cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date, effective measures relating to nuclear disarmament, and a treaty on general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control—our assessment of the ban treaty is that, without the participation of any of the nuclear states, and when you look at the provisions of the ban treaty, which are to, an extent, inconsistent with the NTP treaty and potentially undermine the safeguards present in the NPT treaty, it forms a basis on which we conclude that the ban treaty is not an effective measure.

Senator SINGH: Australia has a history of making really positive contributions in its participation on multilateral negotiations. There's a wide-ranging number that we have contributed to in the arms space. This position has been quite remarkable—the fact that we haven't had any role in the negotiation process or a seat at the table. So what impact has the Australian government's refusal to participate in the negotiation process had on the final treaty agreed to by the negotiated parties?

Mr Sadleir : Senator, we didn't participate in the negotiations—and I've given evidence on this previously—because we made the conclusion it wasn't in Australia's interests to participate. As you know, the conference rules allowed for positions to be overridden by majority votes, so the process abandoned the sort of consensus based framework that's operated in other contexts. We would argue that there wasn't value in joining the negotiations because, of course, the nuclear weapons states were not engaged in those processes and, indeed, the importance of inclusive approaches to nuclear disarmament is something that has been reinforced in a range of different areas, including by the ICJ. We would argue that the outcome of the treaty process illustrated that our decision not to participate was vindicated because there were close partners of ours in the ban treaty who did participate and were not able to have their views heard. Indeed, one of the themes that's coming out of the negotiations from a number of delegations, if you look at their explanations of vote and if you look at statements made in First Committee, is a concern that issues that they'd raised in the course of the negotiations had not been heard and had not been taken on board. It's interesting, Senator. You made the point that 50 states have signed and I think three have signed and—

Senator SINGH: Fifty-three states.

Mr Sadleir : My statistics show that 53 states are on board, with three having ratified. So you're correct: 53. But, if you go to the actual statistics, if you look at those numbers, as far as we're concerned the jury is still out on how many will eventually sign and then ratify. Indeed, it will be interesting to see how those numbers progress. At the moment, it's 53, including three ratifications.

Senator SINGH: I'm going to come back to some of that, but I do want to go to a very exciting event that occurred recently. Firstly, how many Australians or Australian-linked organisations have been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize?

Mr Sadleir : I might defer to colleagues. I don't know the answer to that. I'm happy to take that on notice.

Senator SINGH: Does anyone know that?

Ms Adamson : There have been quite a number of Nobel Prizes, of course—a large number—but Nobel Peace Prizes? I don't think so.

Senator SINGH: So no-one is aware of how many?

Senator Brandis: I'm not aware of any Nobel Peace Prizes having been awarded to Australian citizens or organisations. There have been, of course, several Nobel Prizes, particularly in the fields of medicine and the sciences.

Senator SINGH: Did you just say you're not aware of any that have been awarded to Australians or Australian organisations?

Senator Brandis: Not Australian organisations. I know that this year's Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to an organisation that is associated with Australia, but it is not exclusively an Australian organisation.

Senator SINGH: It was founded in Australia; it began in Australia.

Senator Brandis: It may have been founded in Australia—

Senator SINGH: I think you're being a little bit technical there.

Senator Brandis: but it's an international organisation, as I understand.

Senator SINGH: It is today, yes. How did the government recognise or congratulate the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons for being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize this month?

Mr Sadleir : There was a statement through a spokesperson indicating that the government acknowledged the work of ICAN to promote awareness of the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons.

Senator SINGH: What statement and what spokesperson?

Mr Sadleir : The statement was reported in two newspapers: on 7 October in TheAge and on 9 October in TheAustralian. As an example, the latter reported that a spokesperson for Mr Turnbull acknowledged 'the commitment of ICAN and its supporters to promoting awareness of the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons.'

Senator SINGH: It was reported in a news article on 9 October as 'a spokesman for Mr Turnbull'?

Mr Sadleir : There was also, as I said, an earlier article in The Ageand probably some other reporting that might have picked it up.

Senator SINGH: Is there anywhere on the DFAT website or the minister's website that I can find a statement congratulating ICAN on winning the Nobel Peace Prize?

Mr Sadleir : No.

Senator SINGH: Why didn't the government bother to congratulate ICAN appropriately?

Mr Sadleir : The government has made appropriate remarks that reflect the work done by ICAN but also reflect the fact that Australia does not support the prohibition treaty.

Senator SINGH: Dr David Engel is the Australian Ambassador to Mexico. On 25 October, which was only yesterday, he tweeted a congratulatory message to ICAN, and then the tweet was later deleted. Whose decision was it to tweet the congratulations? Was it the Dr Engel's?

Ms Adamson : No, it was not.

Senator SINGH: Whose decision was it then?

Ms Adamson : Some of our ambassadors do all of their own tweeting, but others rely on systems within their embassies to cover the broad range of issues that ambassadorial tweets—at least in some countries—are designed to do. I'm advised that, while Dr Engel does a reasonable amount of his own tweeting, the person in the embassy normally responsible for clearing the tweets was absent when that tweet was sent out. It was put together by a member of the locally engaged staff, who was unaware of the Australian government's policy on the underlying issue, as set out by Mr Sadleir. When Dr Engel became aware of this, he made the decision himself to delete the tweet.

Senator SINGH: Was Dr Engel instructed to delete the tweet?

Ms Adamson : No, he was not. As soon as he became aware of it, he quickly drew the conclusion that it was not something that should've been done and deleted it.

Senator SINGH: Who made him aware of it?

Ms Adamson : At my request, he was telephoned and asked whether he was aware of the tweet. He was not aware of the tweet. He immediately decided to withdraw it. That was absolutely his own decision.

Senator SINGH: You called the ambassador?

Ms Adamson : No, one of my colleagues called him. I wanted to understand his perspective on the matter. I was not at all surprised, knowing Dr Engel, to discover that in fact he was not responsible for the tweet.

Senator WONG: How were you made aware?

Ms Adamson : How was I made aware? I follow Twitter. I receive a number of tweets, but in the course of yesterday one of my colleagues drew the tweet to my attention. I know Dr Engel. We asked him what it was about. He didn't know. His reaction was as you would expect it to be, given Australian government policy.

Senator SINGH: How does that correspond with what Mr Sadleir said about the statement in The Age on 9 October from the spokesman for Mr Turnbull?

Ms Adamson : Sorry, I don't understand the import of your question.

Senator SINGH: Mr Sadleir said there was a statement of congratulations in The Age.

Ms Adamson : No, it wasn't a statement of congratulations.

Senator SINGH: What was it?

Ms Adamson : It acknowledged the achievement.

Senator SINGH: It acknowledged the achievement?

Mr Sadleir : I'm happy to read it to you again. It was not a congratulation; it was an acknowledgement of ICAN's commitment and its supporters.

Senator SINGH: On DFAT's website you talk about the practical steps the government's taking to promote the nonproliferation and elimination of nuclear weapons I'm interested in what they are.

Mr Sadleir : We are promoting entry into force of the CTBT; continuing to work to carry forward developments with respect to an FMCT, which, as you know, provides a cap on the development of fissile material; working on verification issues; working in bodies like the NPDI, cutting across groups to find progress on nuclear disarmament issues; and trying to create an NPT review cycle, which is productive. Those are some examples of the sorts of things we're trying to do. I should also mention we're working on transparency and reporting arrangements to try to create better information on nuclear weapons holdings.

Senator SINGH: Do any of those steps conflict with Australia's reliance on extended nuclear deterrence?

Mr Sadleir : No, none of those steps.

Senator SINGH: In what circumstances does the government's security doctrine anticipate that using nuclear weapons would be appropriate?

Mr Sadleir : As we all know, extended deterrence is something which comes to the fore in a situation of extreme emergency of the sort that has been referred to in terms of self-defence. If you'd like me to elaborate on that, I'm happy to take that on notice and come back to you.

Senator SINGH: I just can't imagine any circumstance when nuclear weapons would ever be appropriate.

Senator WONG: Was DFAT involved by in arranging the visit by General Petraeus earlier this year?

Ms Adamson : Not that I'm aware of. Can you give me a bit more detail?

Senator WONG: He was here on, I think, 6 June this year—General David Petraeus.

Ms Adamson : I know exactly who you're talking about.

Senator WONG: Sorry, I thought you might not have heard what I said.

Ms Adamson : I've met him in the past, but not on this occasion, and I'm not aware—

Senator WONG: That's fine.

Ms Adamson : Normally if the department is engaged in working with visitors, I'm aware of it, but I don't have any knowledge of that, and I'd be surprised if any of my colleagues did.

Senator WONG: On notice: was the department aware he would be travelling to Australia? Did you have any involvement in his visit? Can you detail that involvement? Can you tell me whether the ambassador or the Australian embassy in Washington had any involvement in obtaining agreement to a visit or in arranging the visit?

Ms Adamson : I am happy to take that on notice.

Senator WONG: Your annual report has a summary of the overseas network. I have a few questions about staff at each mission. I'll ask them, and we can discuss in what way you can provide me information. I want to first have some sense of the number of DFAT based staff posted to each overseas mission.

Ms Adamson : We don't typically provide breakdowns of those staff, for reasons that you will understand.

Senator WONG: I'm not asking for names.

Ms Adamson : No, it's not that.

Senator WONG: It's a capability question. We can have an argument. I can ask the chair to read again to you the Senate resolution at the beginning. If we can try to find a way through this, I'd be appreciative.

Ms Adamson : Sure.

Senator WONG: What is your concern about providing breakdowns?

Ms Adamson : We'd be happy to give you a break down by region.

Senator WONG: What is your concern about providing breakdowns?

Ms Adamson : For a range of reasons, some of which go to security, we do not provide breakdowns of staff within missions—

Senator WONG: I don't want to know—sorry, go on.

Ms Adamson : That's my answer. I'm very happy to work with you and try to help give you the information that you need without compromising our security.

Senator WONG: I don't understand, at the level I'm asking—I don't want to know classifications, names, individuals, any personal characteristics; I just want to know aggregate numbers—why that is a security issue.

Ms Adamson : I'd be happy to explain that to you privately.

Senator WONG: By what region can you provide? At what level of aggregation?

Ms Adamson : Americas, Europe, Middle East and Africa, multilateral, New Zealand and the Pacific, North Asia, South Asia, South-East Asia, over a number of years, 2014-15—

Senator WONG: Can I have that?

Ms Adamson : Certainly.

Senator WONG: What if I want to know how many of that cohort are economists or have economic training?

Ms Adamson : A very large number of people in the department have economics training, myself included, but whether they would regard themselves as economists—perhaps if you tell me a bit more, I will do the best I can.

Senator WONG: I'm trying to get a sense of our—

Ms Adamson : Skill set?

Senator WONG: Yes, I'm trying to get a sense of economic capability. Do I ask questions about their training? Do I ask questions about how many staff are allocated to or have responsibility for economic analysis? Do I ask how many Treasury and Finance staff are posted to each mission? You tell me what I can ask; I'll ask it.

Ms Adamson : We can give you a good story about economists in DFAT.

Senator WONG: No, I don't want a narrative; I want some data. What data can you give me?

Ms Adamson : Through our workforce planning people, we can give you some.

Senator WONG: I want numbers; give me a number.

Ms Mansfield : I am the Chief People Officer.

Senator WONG: When did you start to get called a people officer?

Ms Mansfield : I think it was about 18 months ago.

Ms Adamson : Before I started.

Senator WONG: I wince every time I hear it.

Ms Mansfield : Park that question, take it on notice!

Ms Adamson : Everyone has them.

Senator WONG: Will they like you more if you're called 'people officer' rather than something else?

Ms Mansfield : We are increasingly able to—

Senator WONG: Not that you're not liked! Sorry, I wasn't suggesting that, you know.

Ms Mansfield : I know.

Senator WONG: Go on.

Ms Mansfield : We're increasingly able to provide more detail about the particular positions across the department, whether it's in Canberra or overseas, and where those require some degree of economics knowledge. The degree of knowledge varies enormously from people who have economics degrees, who've worked over a number of years in a number of placements in those areas. We have two chief economists now within the department, who are also trying to ensure through our diplomatic academy that more training is provided, not only the expertise needed for particular positions but also a baseline of economic literacy for our people who are posted overseas. We can provide more detail about people with formal economic qualifications and also the range of positions, whether they're in Canberra, overseas, or indeed in our state capitals.

Senator WONG: No, I'd like the overseas network. Can we focus on that?

Ms Mansfield : Yes. I can't give you a number right now, but we can come back.

Senator WONG: On notice, why don't you do those three categories? You said state capitals, DFAT, Canberra and overseas.

Ms Mansfield : Yes. Again, within a mission, if you think about somewhere like Tokyo, you'll probably have someone who has a deep level of economic expertise. In a smaller mission, where someone might be across a number of areas, we can give you a sense of what those are.

Senator WONG: The number of Treasury and Finance staff posted overseas?

Ms Mansfield : I'm afraid I don't have the exact number posted by Treasury, but we can find that.

Senator WONG: Can you give that on notice? You wanted to use the aggregates of the regions.

Ms Mansfield : We can give you the aggregates.

Ms Adamson : If you're interested in total staff, I think we can help you form a picture, but Treasury and Finance would need to tell their own story.

Senator WONG: I don't want a story; I just want some numbers.

Ms Adamson : They'll have the numbers. They'll give you the numbers. We have one of our two chief economists sitting here, Chris Tinning. If he can provide you with data—

Senator WONG: He walked to the table. Do you want to tell me something?

Mr Tinning : Just happy to answer any questions.

Senator WONG: Now I feel bad, because I'm not going to ask you anything. I want to get through things before six o'clock.

Ms Adamson : The serious point you make, though, is about economic expertise in the department.

Senator WONG: It is.

Ms Adamson : It's something that I've felt very strongly about from day one. I know it might sound a bit unusual, but, because of nature of our work, trade and economic investment, and also the immediate need for economic special expertise in the aid program, we now have two chief economists.

Senator WONG: How do you split up the duties or areas of responsibility?

Mr Tinning : I am the chief economist, development. I look mainly at the aid program. We have a chief economist, trade and investment, who looks mainly at the trade and investment issues. We work closely together, including on economic capability across the department.

Senator WONG: Can I get a number of how many of Austrade staff are posted to each region?

Ms Adamson : Austrade will able to give you that.

Senator WONG: Can I put that on notice for Austrade, please? Is that alright?

CHAIR: Do you want to wait until they're here?

Senator WONG: No, I'm just going to ask the secretariat to put it on the notice. I've had some fun with Austrade over the years. It has been enjoyable. For what proportion of New Colombo Plan scholars is an internship component available?

Ms Adamson : The model, if you like, for New Colombo Plan scholars is that each of them will have a formal study component and an internship component. That is the nature of the scholar experience. That would almost invariably be the case, but in a small number of countries that can sometimes be, for whatever local practical reasons, difficult to arrange. It is an essential and indeed highly valuable part of the scholarship program. Increasing numbers of companies are recognising the value of it to them and are coming on board for the program.

Senator WONG: What percentage of NCP scholars take up an internship?

Mr Byrne : Our most recent figure on that, of scholars whom we surveyed who'd undertaken a scholarship between August 2016 and May 2017, 93 per cent had taken up at least one internship.

Senator WONG: What data do you have on internships? Do you have average duration?

Mr Byrne : I've not seen that data.

Ms Adamson : We have quite a lot of data. We don't necessarily have it all at our fingertips, but we can manipulate the data that we do have, not necessarily in terribly fine detail, but I would hope that broadly the questions you want to ask, we'd be able to answer, even if we have to take it on notice.

Senator WONG: Okay. Do this, and on notice you can see what you can give me. I'd like to know what percentage of scholars take up an internship? Are internships available in every country where NCP scholars study? Can you tell me other countries where internships are difficult to arrange—I think you alluded to that in your previous answer? Are there countries in which the availability of internships is less than demand? And I want to ask a costing question: in terms of the costings underpinning the appropriation for the NCP, what are the assumptions about take-up and average duration of internship?

Mr Byrne : I think I'd have to take all of those on notice., Senator.

Senator WONG: Okay.

Ms Adamson : I know we can answer them, but I want to be accurate about it.

Senator WONG: That's fine. How many DFAT officers are currently undergoing full-time language training? I know this is a point-in-time question.

Ms Adamson : Yes. But I'm pretty sure we can give you an answer, if not immediately then otherwise in the course of today We can, because Ms Mudie is coming up. It's a large number is the answer.

Ms Mudie : At present we have, I believe, 113 officers studying language in the department.

Senator WONG: Where is that done?

Ms Mudie : There's a mixture of venues at the moment. We have some officers who study in the RG Casey Building and others are studying off site at venues offered by our provider.

Ms Adamson : And of course many study in country. Some of them start off here and then they'll complete their studies in country.

Senator WONG: So the—

Senator GALLACHER: That's quite an investment by the taxpayer in language facilities at your new office?

Ms Adamson : There is indeed.

Senator GALLACHER: And the figures that you gave to the Public Works Committee to underpin that were a lot—113?

Ms Adamson : Yes.

Ms Mudie : Senator, I might just note that the figures we gave to the Public Works Committee were students studying across the full curriculum in the diplomatic academy. Language students are a portion of that.

Senator GALLACHER: Students?

Ms Mudie : Language trainees are a proportion of the numbers that we would expect to be studying in the academy premises.

Ms Adamson : And many of those students need language lab facilities. I've done this myself: you sit there for hours in a box—

Senator GALLACHER: I just recall it as a much higher figure than 113, and underpinned by that investment.

Ms Adamson : Yes, for the total number of students it is very significant indeed. The fit-out is underway, and the numbers look about right to us. In terms of the spaces for the language students and for all of the other students it's going to be—

Senator GALLACHER: And part of the proposal—sorry, Senator Wong—

Senator WONG: No, that's fine.

Senator GALLACHER: was that you were going to take it in-house and have considerable savings about the needs for your training of people.

Ms Adamson : Yes, but it isn't completed yet. When it's completed, that is exactly what will happen.

Senator GALLACHER: Okay, thank you.

Senator WONG: How many are undertaking part-time training?

Ms Mudie : Part-time language training? All long-term language trainees are full-time, but they study for four hours a day and then they study in their own time as well. So they have four hours of formal tuition.

Senator WONG: So when I said full-time, and you said 113, that was what you were referencing?

Ms Mudie : There's 113; I'll just double-check.

Senator WONG: Sorry, the structure of studies is what you were referencing when I asked you about full-time language trainees?

Ms Mudie : Yes. So, 113 are studying full-time.

Senator WONG: And that is the only structure of training that's delivered in DFAT Canberra?

Ms Mudie : Yes. All language trainees are on a full-time commitment.

Senator WONG: Sorry?

Ms Mudie : All trainees are treated as full-time officers and their commitment is on a full-time basis.

Senator WONG: And their commitment is four hours a day?

Ms Mudie : Four hours of formal tuition and then the expectation that they spend the rest of their working day studying, and out of hours as well.

Senator WONG: Okay.

Ms Adamson : With respect to part-time, though, quite a number of colleagues who have been trained in whatever language will choose to continue to study in their own time, once they are at post, just to maintain the level or, indeed, to progress it.

Senator WONG: Yes. What was your language training expenditure in the last financial year?

Ms Mudie : For the previous financial year, 2016-17, it was $8.1 million.

Senator WONG: $8.1 million. Does that only relate to the 113 individuals—well, this is a point-in-time figure—in that category? Or is that a mix of—

Ms Mudie : It relates to the full range of services that we acquire from CIT, who are our current language provider. That is all tuition, curriculum development, immersion courses, discussion groups and so on.

Senator WONG: I understand that you're saying they do all of this stuff, but in terms of end user for that it's the equivalent of the cohort, which is currently 113?

Ms Mudie : That's right. On average, over any given year it is around 120 who study language—people go in and out of the—

Senator WONG: For how long?

Ms Mudie : It depends on the language. We have a mix, ranging from 88 weeks down to six or eight weeks, depending on the language.

Ms Adamson : Could I just also add: because language is really important to the work we do, for years there have been lunchtime classes, discussion classes, for people to come along and practice. Ms Mudie, I think, included in that budget figure the tutors who come along and just run conversation classes.

Senator WONG: Sure.

Ms Adamson : Those people are not formally full-time enrolled in language training but they want to keep up their, in many cases, more than one language.

Senator WONG: On notice—if you could identify the full suite of services that—is it CIT—provide?

Ms Mudie : Yes.

Senator WONG: Are you able to give me the equivalent figure to 8.1 for the previous decade?

Ms Mudie : I will certainly look back through or records and see what we can find, yes.

Senator WONG: Thank you. Have they been the provider for that time frame?

Ms Mudie : CIT?

Senator WONG: Yes.

Ms Mudie : I would again have to check the exact dates of their contract. But we've recently renewed the contract. Previous to that, I would have to check.

Senator WONG: Do you set language targets? Do you say: 'We want X Bahasa speakers. We want X Mandarin speakers. We want X French speakers.' Do you do that?

Ms Adamson : Workforce planning, which Sally Mansfield referred to, factors those sorts of things in—

Senator WONG: People officer?

Ms Adamson : Yes, indeed. And, when you say—'targets' in terms of numbers, but also in terms of level. Staff know, when they are applying for posting, with language training, that they need to get to a particular level. Mostly, we're a pretty competitive bunch and people want to do better than that. But those targets are there.

Senator WONG: Without going through it bit by bit, I just want to get a snapshot of what these targets are.

Ms Adamson : Sure.

Senator WONG: You can do it on notice, Ms Mansfield, if it would be easier. I am trying to get a sense of where the secretary is sitting, and your executive board—whoever is doing this—what you are seeking to do in terms of workforce language capability over the coming years: levels, which language groups and so forth. Are you able to do something like that?

Ms Mansfield : Yes. We would be happy to do something like that.

Senator WONG: Thank you.

Ms Mansfield : We are working towards that capacity more and more. The analysis that we've done, as well as forecasting what sort of pools we would need at junior levels in order to have people flow through to the more senior levels, is increasingly what we are doing.

CHAIR: Senator Wong, I'm just going to—

Senator WONG: You want to move on?


Senator WONG: Can I finish one point, please?

CHAIR: Of course.

Senator WONG: Can I have a snapshot currently of the relative capacity between Asian languages and others?

Ms Mansfield : Again, I would have to provide that to you on notice. But we can—

Senator WONG: You don't know broadly?

Ms Mansfield : I have a couple of sort of broad pictures in my head. For instance, in Arabic language, we're quite well serviced in terms of numbers of officers who have studied. We have got up to what we call the three-three or the four-four level. We do have a reasonable number of speakers in Chinese Mandarin and Japanese, but not as many as we would like. Indonesian is an area where we have quite a number. But, again, looking over the horizon and trying to make sure that we have the right pool of people going into the more senior positions is the particular thing we want to attract.

Senator WONG: Thank you.

CHAIR: Senator Hanson-Young.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Thank you. I had some questions in relation to Adelaide based Chinese mining magnate Sally Zu. I'm hoping someone in DFAT will be able to come forward and answer some questions in relation to this.

CHAIR: It is pretty random. Can you narrow the field?

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: I imagine there are people in DFAT who are aware of this, seeing as this is the Chinese national who set up—here we go. This fellow knows what we're talking about.

CHAIR: Can you enlighten the rest of us?

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: This is a Chinese national who has set up several companies in Australia, mining companies. But today she took out an ad in the Adelaide Advertiser—two full-pages ad—asking people to sell her a property. But the reason I wanted to ask this is because this woman has had relations and meetings with the foreign minister. I wanted to know what the nature of those meetings have been. The foreign minister, Julie Bishop, obviously knows this person because she has been asked questions about this woman in the past in question time. So I would be surprised if there weren't some briefings.

Senator Brandis: Senator Hanson-Young, we know nothing of this. However, if your question is: 'Has this particular person had meetings with the foreign minister, and what is the nature of those meetings?' I will take that question on notice.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Yes. I am just giving you a bit of background. The question is: has the foreign minister met with Sally Zu?

Ms Adamson : We will have to take that on notice. I thought you said Sally Zu. It is Zou.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Sally Zou—Z-O-U.

Ms Adamson : We discussed this. I think it came up in the last estimates, at least where there was a report she had set up a company without the foreign minister's knowledge. We will take it on notice, I think, because—

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: What I would like—I have got a selection of questions here. So let's see—

Senator Brandis: Senator, just for the sake of time, why don't you run through your questions and we will take them on notice?

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Well, if we can get some answers, that would be great.

Senator Brandis: Sure.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: If you need to take questions on notice, then I'm more than happy to do that as well. I would like to know when the minister has met with Sally Zou. She has admitted to meeting her previously. I would like to know when those meetings were and the nature of those meetings.

Senator Brandis: We will take it on notice.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: I would like to know whether, in these meetings, the issue of diplomatic relations with China was ever raised.

Senator Brandis: We will take that on notice.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: I also want to know whether DFAT has previously warned the foreign minister from meeting with this particular individual. And, if so, when that warning was issued—

Senator Brandis: We will take that on notice.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: or that advice was given. This individual, Ms Sally Zou, also took out a full page ad in the Adelaide Advertiser back in August, on 11 August, welcoming the Prime Minister to Adelaide. I would like to know whether Ms Sally Zou met the Prime Minister during his visit to South Australia at that period.

Senator Brandis: That's not something that DFAT can respond to.

Senator ABETZ: It sounds like a worthy thing to do.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Well, DFAT may indeed be aware if they are concerned about this particular person.

Senator Brandis: Senator Hanson-Young—

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: If the department needs to take it on notice—

Senator Brandis: Well, I'm just saying—

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Attorney, then they can.

Senator Brandis: That is a question to the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet about what the Prime Minister's schedule is. That's all I'm saying.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: If the foreign affairs department is aware, then I'm asking you whether you're aware.

Ms Adamson : Senator, we're not aware.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Okay. Is the department aware of Ms Zou's family connections with the Chinese government?

Ms Adamson : We are not aware, Senator.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Could you please check? You're not aware? You don't know anything?

CHAIR: The secretary has said they are not aware. I think—

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: You haven't bothered to look into this person's background at all?

Ms Adamson : We're the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. So, no—

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: And this woman runs mining companies in Australia, apparently.

Senator Brandis: Well—

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: You don't know anything about it?

Senator Brandis: Senator Hanson-Young, it isn't the role of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade to conduct investigations into people because they run mining companies.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: It is your job to know whether there's foreign investment coming into Australia, isn't it? Isn't that your job?

Ms Adamson : Well, Senator, the Treasury—the Foreign Investment Review Board has a formal role. I'm not—I don't—honestly, I don't know Sally Zou. I don't know whether she is an Australian citizen or an Australian resident, or Chinese. We don't know anything about it.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: You have agreed to take those questions on notice.

Ms Adamson : The questions that we have agreed to take on notice.

CHAIR: And I think we've been referred also to Treasury and PM&C for further information.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: I would like to know what, if any, information the department has in relation to the companies Aus Gold Mining Aus Diamond and the Australian Jade Group. I'd like to know if the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade knows how many of these companies operate mines or have other operations in Australia.

Senator Brandis: Look, Senator, we'll take these questions on notice so that we can—

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: You've asked me to read out the questions to take them on notice. That's exactly what I'm doing.

Senator Brandis: Senator Hanson-Young—

Senator GALLACHER: Let me ask another question: would it be a concern to the department if the person had set up a company called the Julie Bishop Glorious Foundation? Would that be something that you would take an interest in?

Senator Brandis: We'll take these questions on notice, but, Senator Hanson-Young, the topic about which you are asking is not the sort of thing that this department does. It doesn't keep tabs on people in Australia who run mining companies or—

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Except that this individual has met with the foreign minister.

Senator Brandis: Well, you say so.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: No, the foreign minister confirmed it in question time.

Senator Brandis: That's what you say.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: It's on the record.

Senator Brandis: Okay, but nor is it the business of the department of foreign affairs to know about all the personal or commercial affairs of somebody just because they may have met the minister.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: That's why I'm asking the questions.

Senator Brandis: I don't know why you're asking the question because you seem to be assuming that this is a matter for the department of foreign affairs merely because this person has apparently met the minister.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: I'm simply asking the questions. This is somebody who has donated hundreds of thousands of dollars—

Senator Brandis: I've met the minister too; so have you. Does that mean the department of foreign affairs should be investigating my affairs?

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: This individual has donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to the Liberal Party.

Senator Brandis: I don't know that.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: In the essence of public interest—

Senator Brandis: I don't know that at all.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: if she's meeting with the foreign minister, the public have a right to know.

Senator Brandis: Raise your voice if you like, but the fact is this is not a matter for this estimates committee.

CHAIR: Senator Hanson-Young, with regard to the dates of those meetings, the department has taken that on notice.

Senator Brandis: The subject of political donations, obviously, is a matter for the Australian Electoral Commission in the finance and public administration estimates.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: I'd like to know, on notice, whether the Department of Foreign Affairs has ever prepared a brief in relation to this individual or any of the companies that are registered against her name here in Australia.

Senator Brandis: We'll take that on notice.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Thank you.

Senator ABETZ: And you wouldn't have done it for Senator Dastyari's Chinese connections either, would you?

Senator WONG: Ms Adamson, you gave a speech in Adelaide to the Confucius Institute on 7 October which was, I thought, a very good speech. I do want to understand how that speech fits with the comments that, for example, had been made earlier in speeches the Prime Minister gave at the Shangri-La Dialogue and also, I think, that Ms Bishop made in, from memory, Singapore. Did you discuss the content and direction of this speech with the minister?

Ms Adamson : Would it be helpful for me to table a copy of the speech? I have it here and I have enough copies for that.

Senator WONG: I've read it. I'm happy for you to table it.

Ms Adamson : If you wanted to talk about it, it might be helpful for members of the committee. We have copies and can table it if we're going to be referring to it. In answer your question—did I discuss the content with the foreign minister—the answer is no.

Senator WONG: No?

Ms Adamson : Not in advance, no.

Senator WONG: Why not?

Ms Adamson : I'm a departmental secretary. I make a series of speeches. People ask me to make speeches. I would normally give the foreign minister a forward sense of when I was going to be making speeches, and some of them are, frankly, to very small numbers of people and don't attract any attention at all. I mentioned, I think, sometime earlier that I would be making a series of speeches and, as a courtesy, I always provide a copy of my speech in advance to the minister or to her staff.

Senator WONG: So a copy was provided?

Ms Adamson : I provide a copy in advance, but you asked me whether I discussed it with her and the answer to that is no.

Senator WONG: So you weren't directed or asked to give a speech in the sorts of terms—

Ms Adamson : No.

Senator WONG: that raise some of the issues which were included in the speech?

Ms Adamson : No.

Senator WONG: How was the venue chosen? Was it simply an invitation from the Confucius Institute?

Ms Adamson : It was an invitation from the OzAsia Festival, working in concert with Adelaide university and the Confucius Institute to mark the institute's 10th anniversary. An annual lecture is held during the OzAsia Festival.

Senator WONG: Would you agree it was an important and significant speech?

Ms Adamson : It was a carefully considered speech.

Senator WONG: I'm sure it was. Looking at it, I wonder why the decision was made to have the secretary rather than the minister deliver this speech?

Ms Adamson : We're both alumni of Adelaide university—

Senator WONG: Yes, me too.

Ms Adamson : but Douglas Gautier, director of the Adelaide Festival Centre, someone I've known for a number of years, was keen to invite me to speak at this event. He invited me and I accepted.

Senator WONG: That's not—

Ms Adamson : I don't know what his state of mind is but—

Senator WONG: The question is not a question that is about venue and opportunity, it is about content. And what I am asking you is why a secretary of the department rather than a minister delivered some of the content in that speech, which was—I'm trying to think of the right adjective—clear, I suppose, particularly in relation to free speech, some might say sovereignty, matters. So my question is why are you not—

Ms Adamson : Ministers have spoken about similar issues, perhaps not drawn together in quite the way I did for an international student audience and, indeed, for others in the room, but, certainly, these are themes that have been explored, at least in part, on a number of occasions and by the foreign minister in a range of speeches as well. I even quoted the foreign minister; I quoted the Prime Minister; I quoted the minister for—

Senator WONG: You did. Did you say, earlier, that the speech was cleared with the office for the—

Ms Adamson : No, I didn't clear the speech. As a courtesy, I provide the office with a text of my speech.

Senator WONG: And that was provided on this occasion.

Ms Adamson : Yes.

Senator WONG: Were any changes requested or any comments made?

Ms Adamson : No, the office doesn't ever request changes to my speeches.

Senator WONG: Was there any feedback?

Ms Adamson : There was, 'Thank you very much.' I made a speech earlier that week to ASPI on international law. Both speeches I provided a couple of days in advance and was thanked for doing so.

Senator WONG: My question, in relation to this speech, was: was there any feedback ahead of you giving it after you provided the text?

Ms Adamson : There was acknowledgement but no feedback.

Senator WONG: The paragraphs, I think, which got a bit of media, were the ones that referenced the expectation of scrutiny of actions and policy positions. They went on to say, 'As China becomes more important there will be more scrutiny of China,' et cetera. I just wonder, have those sentiments been reflected in speeches the foreign minister has given?

Ms Adamson : Senator, the foreign minister makes a very large number of speeches. I would say that most of what I've said here, in one form or another, perhaps not drawn together in quite this way, is content that ministers, including my own minister, would have used on one occasion or another, if not in formal speeches then in informal speaking engagements. These things go to our values and are widely shared.

Senator WONG: They do. I think I referenced you in a speech I gave recently, and the Prime Minister has talked about sovereignty et cetera. But with the point about scrutiny and the reference to 'China should expect scrutiny'—I'm paraphrasing—I just wondered if that articulation had been included in anything the foreign minister had said.

Ms Adamson : I'm not aware of that, specifically, but that is the department's assessment. As China becomes more important in the world, in fact—and, of course, more important to Australia's future—it follows that there will be more scrutiny of China. That's an obvious thing, and I think anyone who considers the matter would draw the same conclusion.

Senator WONG: I'm not disagreeing. I'm simply asking whether or not it's been reflected in the things that the minister has said or whether you've carried that message.

Ms Adamson : What I've said is this is unremarkable in many respects. It is a statement of the obvious, and I think it's been made by others. I was certainly not setting out to say something that had never been said before. I was reflecting my own assessment and that of the department of what happens as powers grow and exercise more influence not only in their immediate region but more widely.

Senator WONG: Thank you. There were reports in July, I think in The Australian—and I will just read from a report entitled 'Vietnam halts South China Sea drilling "after Chinese threats"'. The reports states:

China has threatened to attack Vietnamese bases over gas drilling in the disputed waters of the South China Sea, according to diplomatic sources …

Then it goes on to talk about Vietnam's response. I assume the department was aware of those reports?

Ms Adamson : Yes.

Senator WONG: Did Australia respond to these allegations in any way?

Ms Adamson : How do you mean 'respond', Senator?

Senator WONG: Did we do anything? So there is a report—and I'm not in a position to understand whether it's correct or not—that threats were made in relation to drilling in the South China Sea. Did the department seek to verify whether or not these reports were correct? That's my first question.

Ms Adamson : Normally, what happens in such a situation is that our missions responsible for whatever area it is will include in their normal diplomatic reporting, particularly if it's an issue which receives international prominence, an account of that particular issue. Mr Green may be in a position to confirm that. But I would say that, if something like that were to happen, I would expect our posts to provide a report on it.

Senator WONG: And did they?

Mr Green : I can't recall, Senator.

Ms Adamson : The broader issue that you raise, Senator, is one of economic coercion. That's something on which the Prime Minister spoke quite clearly in his speech on 2 June in the Shangri-La dialogue in Singapore, outlining the sort of region that Australia is looking for in the future, not one run by coercion.

Senator WONG: Yes, I understand that. I referenced that when I asked you about the Confucius Institute speech, and I think you included some of his statements in the Shangri-La speech as well. But I'm actually just asking what we did, if anything, as a result of those allegations being reported.

Mr Green : I think the secretary has covered it, Senator. We would normally just expect to receive reports from the post or posts concerned. And I don't recall us taking any specific action in relation to that matter.

Senator WONG: Right. Was the minister briefed about these reports?

Ms Adamson : The minister's office. The minister received cabled reports from our posts. I can think of other instances, from my previous experience, where those matters were indeed reported.

Senator WONG: The government—well, Australia—has articulated a position in relation to the regional order, but particularly in relation to the South China Sea, which includes the resolution of disputes peacefully in accordance with international law, upholding the rules based order, and refraining from coercive behaviour and unilateral actions designed to change the status quo. I just wonder, in that context, if you can explain the lack of response to these allegations. It may be that they weren't brought to your attention, but I'd like to understand.

Ms Adamson : The way we respond to those allegations is by articulating the position—and you've accurately set out what our position is—publicly in a range of different fora, including, as the committee asked us questions about earlier, a series of ASEAN meetings. Those are points that are regularly made publicly and privately, they're part of our formal position, and I'd expect them to continue to be articulated in that way.

Senator WONG: Okay. On 7 July the then Acting Prime Minister, Mr Joyce, said that Australia had 'sympathy' for trade sanctions against China in response to the most recent threat at that time from North Korea. When he was asked about the US warning it could cut off trade with countries doing business with North Korea, Mr Joyce replied, 'We obviously have sympathy,' et cetera, et cetera. Australia having sympathy for trade sanctions against China—does that reflect the government's position?

Ms Adamson : The issue of sanctions is a complex one, as you know, and from a legal perspective there are various sanctions that we pursue as a result of UN Security Council resolutions or that we pursue or instigate as a result of decisions that we've made ourselves. The issue in relation to North Korea and China has come about, obviously, because there's been a recognition, widely held for some time, that China has unique leverage when it comes to the DPRK. One of our objectives has been to try to encourage China to use that leverage; in fact, I think many analysts and commentators—and, indeed, we ourselves—would agree that China has been more active in exercising that leadership. So I think the remark was probably made in that context, but when it comes to the formal policy around it, Mr Fletcher or Mr Larsen might want to add.

Senator WONG: I'm not sure we need that. I think, more, I just want to confirm that the suggestion Australia has some sympathy for trade sanctions being imposed against China is not a reflection of Australian government policy. Is that correct?

Ms Adamson : I wouldn't put it quite as starkly as that, simply because, in the context of the DPRK issue, consideration needs to be given to companies which are in breach of UN sanctions.

Senator WONG: That is a different question.

Ms Adamson : Actually, no, it's related.

Senator WONG: I appreciate that, but that is not the position that is articulated. The position that was articulated was trade sanctions against China, not specifically just particular companies. I'll refer back to your comments about China having unique leverage, which I think is the formulation the government consistently uses. Can you confirm to me that at no stage have the foreign minister or the Prime Minister suggested that unique leverage should mean that Australia should impose sanctions against China?

Ms Adamson : I think the issue really is sanctions against Chinese companies. You've said 'China'. I said 'Chinese companies', and that is a live issue, Chinese companies globally—

Senator WONG: But I'm talking about Mr Joyce's comments. I'm not having a policy argument or discussion with you about what the right policy framework is. I'm asking whether what he said when Acting Prime Minister reflected Australian government policy.

Ms Adamson : The fact of the matter is that it's not China; it's Chinese companies. And that is an issue which governments around the world at various points have needed to consider. As I say, though, we see evidence of China using that leverage and using it in keeping with UN Security Council resolutions.

Senator WONG: Okay. I'll read from the report:

When asked about the US warning it could cut off trade with countries doing business with North Korea, Mr Joyce replied: "we obviously have sympathy".

I'm suggesting to you that that is not an accurate reflection of government policy.

Ms Adamson : I'm not sure whether it's an accurate report of what Mr Joyce said, either.

Mr Fletcher : I think the US statement has been misconstrued, if it means that the US was considering cutting off trade with China.

Senator WONG: I agree with you. But I didn't say this; the Acting Prime Minister said it.

Mr Fletcher : He was responding to a comment by a journalist about a remark made by an American, and I think both the original remark and its interpretation were not correct.

Senator WONG: Thank you. Were the Acting Prime Minister's comments raised with the department by any representatives of the Chinese government?

Mr Fletcher : No.

Senator WONG: Did DFAT seek to clarify the remarks with representatives of the PRC?

Mr Fletcher : No.

Senator WONG: Did the foreign minister seek to correct the record?

Mr Fletcher : I'll take that on notice.

Senator WONG: Would the advice to the PRC be that the Acting Prime Minister didn't understand Australian government policy accurately?

Mr Fletcher : To my knowledge, we have not discussed the matter with China and they haven't raised it with us.

Ms Adamson : And there is no need to do so.

CHAIR: Can I just get an indication. So far today: 4½ hours to the ALP, 40 minutes to the government, 1½ hours to the Greens and 20 minutes to the crossbench. I'm just trying to get an indication of when we will move off the non-trade section of the department. We are due to break at 6 pm for 1½ hours of dinner. I'm happy to cut that back to an hour.

Senator WONG: An hour's good.

CHAIR: I need to get an indication from senators at the table of where we're at.

Senator GALLACHER: Why, Chair? We have an indicative timetable and have had for the last three years.

Senator WONG: I've got two more bits in what you might call my 'China bit'. Then, I think, my colleague has a couple of questions.

CHAIR: So we'll probably return from dinner with non-trade? That's okay.

Senator WONG: Yes. I'll try to finish off as much as I can before dinner.

Senator Brandis: Madam Chair, could I suggest that perhaps we sit on so that we can get the foreign affairs part of the portfolio done.

CHAIR: I appreciate what you're saying, Attorney-General; however, under the standing orders as they are now any senator can walk in at 10 to 11 tonight and request for any question to be answered.

Senator WONG: No, we—

CHAIR: I appreciate that the opposition, the Labor Party, won't be doing that. But we have a very vigorous crossbench that can have the opportunity to do that.

Senator Brandis: There is a sequence, though, Madam Chair.

CHAIR: Yes, there is—an agreed sequence.

Senator Brandis: It's not an indicative timetable in terms of the break-up of the time through the day and evening but it is indicative as to the sequence, so once we finish foreign affairs then we can't go back to foreign affairs. My suggestion, which I don't think the opposition is objecting to, is that if the opposition and others have questions on foreign affairs then we complete that so that foreign affairs officers can then know that they can leave at the dinner adjournment and we'll return to the trade sections of the portfolio.

CHAIR: Senator, I have meetings in the dinner break and I'm offering, if we can cut it back, to break at 6.30. If the opposition and other senators, crossbench senators, who I know have put their names down to ask questions of this section but haven't been able to join us are not able to get here in time, we will have to return after the dinner break, because they've already flagged their interest. Hopefully they'll be out of their meeting and will be back and we can do as you've suggested. Just keep asking questions, Penny.

Senator WONG: Very quickly—Ms Adamson, can you articulate what the government's official position on the BRI is.

Ms Adamson : Yes, I'm happy to do that, or Mr Fletcher can—either of us can.

Senator WONG: Please feel free.

Ms Adamson : Australia supports initiatives that improve infrastructure development and increase investment opportunities in our region. A transparent, collaborative approach to regional infrastructure development will ensure successful projects. In September 2017 the Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment, Mr Ciobo, discussed closer engagement on trade and infrastructure investment opportunities during his discussion with the National Development and Reform Commission chairman, He Lifeng, including an officials-led working group to identify BRI opportunities. Mr Ciobo and Chairman He signed an MOU on cooperation in investment and infrastructure in third countries which may encompass BRI related projects. Mr Ciobo also confirmed Australia would participate in the BRI focused China International Import Conference in November 2018. The government has not signed a bilateral MOU with China on the Belt and Road Initiative. The government is keen to focus on concrete projects, not rhetorical statements. We've taken the view quite consistently that the China-Australia Free Trade Agreement is the primary vehicle for deepening our two-way trade and investment partnership with China.

Senator WONG: Thank you. Do I infer from that that it is open for Australian companies and/or the government to participate in individual projects should they either win the contract, in the case of Australian companies, or, in terms of the government's approach, participate in particular projects that the government deems to be appropriate?

Ms Adamson : Certainly. Mr Fletcher works on this in more detail than I do and I'm happy for him to take further questions, but, yes, that is correct.

Senator WONG: I was actually going to broadly move on unless there was something—

Ms Adamson : No, that's correct. They can and, indeed, there's some enthusiasm on the part of Australian companies with construction expertise to do just that and, of course, we will support them in their endeavours.

Senator WONG: Was it 2018—the next conference that you flagged that Mr Ciobo would participate in?

Mr Fletcher : Yes.

Senator WONG: The MOU—is that public? Sorry, I probably should have found it.

Mr Fletcher : The MOU that was signed in Beijing—no, that's not public.

Senator WONG: Can I have a copy, please?

Mr Fletcher : I'll take that on notice.

Senator WONG: The Prime Minister released a statement on the death of Liu Xiaobo. Did the government raise any concerns regarding his welfare prior to his death?

Mr Fletcher : Yes.

Senator WONG: Do you want to give me some detail of that?

Mr Fletcher : In Beijing, through our embassy, and in Canberra, from the department to the embassy here, we raised concerns about his welfare.

Ms Adamson : As we had done over a number of years during his detention.

Senator WONG: Are you able, on notice, to give a little more detail, Mr Fletcher?

Mr Fletcher : I can tell you now. The first government communication with the Chinese was on 14 July—a media release by the foreign minister. That was followed a communication I had on 18 July with the deputy ambassador in Canberra.

Senator WONG: No—I asked what concerns had been raised about his welfare prior to his death?

Mr Fletcher : In the period after he was released out of prison into the hospital, I don't have any record of us raising concerns. I'll take on notice whether there were any other conversations, but I don't think there were.

Senator WONG: The article by Mr Sheridan regarding the annual human rights dialogue with China—was the department aware that the story would appear prior to seeing it?

Mr Fletcher : No.

Senator WONG: Did anyone from the department brief Mr Sheridan ahead of that story?

Mr Fletcher : Not to my knowledge.

Senator WONG: Did the department have any knowledge of how Mr Sheridan came to have the information contained in the story?

Mr Fletcher : No.

Senator WONG: What is the current status of the dialogue?

Mr Fletcher : We're at an impasse, frankly. We would like to see the dialogue proceed at vice-ministerial level, and we're even prepared to do it occasionally at vice-ministerial level and in between at a more junior level. China insists on downgrading it, and we continue to talk about it without reaching agreement.

Senator WONG: It provides an architect for discussion of human rights concerns?

Mr Fletcher : It does. So, the fact that we are not having a formal dialogue means that we are probably raising human rights issues more frequently in the course of normal business.

Senator WONG: I'm happy to go to one of my colleagues, or to—

CHAIR: Senator Xenophon is actually the crossbench senator I was talking about. He's the only other senator we know who has questions in this area.

Senator BRANDIS: Are you still here, Senator Xenophon? You've had more farewells than Nellie Melba!

CHAIR: So he has made it back in time, which is great.

Senator XENOPHON: It's another, I think 20-something hours—my arithmetic is not very good—until the High Court decision. Can I ask some questions in respect of East Timor. What is the status of the negotiations between Australia and East Timor regarding the maritime border?

Mr Larsen : You will be aware, I expect, Senator, of the press report issued by the Conciliation Commission. At the conclusion of a meeting of that commission in The Hague couple of weeks ago, the Conciliation Commission identified the fact that the two parties had agreed to the terms of a treaty and that work was ongoing with respect to what is described as the development concept, which is the development parameters of the Greater Sunrise field and, in particular, the question of where a pipeline might go.

Senator XENOPHON: So does that mean a median line between the two countries has actually been agreed to or is that still subject to negotiation?

Mr Larsen : It's extremely important, from an Australian government perspective, that we comply with the confidentiality requirements of the Conciliation Commission. So, I'm not in a position to disclose the particulars of the treaty, but there is an agreement with respect to the boundary, yes.

Senator BRANDIS: And, Senator Xenophon, can I just add to what Mr Larsen has said, because this has been jointly conducted by this department and the Attorney-General's Department: it has been a very successful process, I think, we may say, but it is not finalised yet. There are still some matters under discussion. We are optimistic that it will come to finality very soon. We've no reason to believe it won't but, until it has come the finality, I think it best if we don't go into any particular detail.

Senator XENOPHON: When do you expect, in broad terms, that a treaty be signed?

Senator BRANDIS: Can we say that?

Mr Larsen : The Conciliation Commission's press release detailed the agreement between the parties, which was expressing the hope that, subject to further consideration of the development concept issues, the treaty would be signed towards the end of this year or early next year.

Senator XENOPHON: So that's when we'll find out where the lateral borders will be?

Mr Larsen : Correct, Senator. Unless there's an agreed process by which those details are revealed earlier, which is possible within the terms of the Conciliation Commission.

Senator XENOPHON: I just have some questions to ask in respect of Palestine—and, Ms Adamson, if they have already been traversed, I'm sure you'll tell me to save time. I've got a question about Australia's forthcoming vote at the UN General Assembly on the peaceful settlement of the question of Palestine. What will Australia's vote be in 2017, noting that in 2016 Australia abstained and 153 countries voted in favour?

Mr Neuhaus : As things stand—but of course one has to always keep an eye on the wording of resolutions—I would expect we would take a position consistent with the one we did last year.

Senator XENOPHON: An abstention?

Mr Neuhaus : As things stand.

Senator XENOPHON: Similarly, in the vote on the status of Jerusalem the General Assembly stressed that:

… a comprehensive, just and lasting solution to the question of the City of Jerusalem should take into account the legitimate concerns of both the Palestinian and Israeli sides …

In 2016 Australia abstained and 149 countries voted in favour. Do you expect an abstention again?

Mr Neuhaus : We will have to look at the text of the resolution this year, but we see no shift in our position.

Senator XENOPHON: What recent assessment has the Australian government made of the compatibility with international law of the arrest and transfer of children from the occupied Palestinian territories to Israel, noting the British government has stated in its parliament:

We are clear that Israel has legal obligations as an Occupying Power with respect to the Occupied Palestinian Territories under the Fourth of the Geneva Conventions of 1949. This includes Article 49, which prohibits deportation of protected persons from the occupied territory and Article 76, providing that protected persons convicted of offenses shall be detained and serve their sentences within the occupied territory.

Mr Neuhaus : I would have to defer to our senior legal advisor on any legal aspects that you have raised there.

Senator XENOPHON: But does Australia have a different assessment? That's the obvious question to follow that through.

Mr Larsen : As you would be aware, it's customary practice not to reveal the contents of legal advice or provide legal opinions.

Senator XENOPHON: Does Australia have a different assessment to that of the British government?

Mr Larsen : Australia has its own assessment.

Senator XENOPHON: You won't tell us what that assessment is?

Mr Larsen : I think these issues have been traversed in Senate estimates on previous occasions. It's not the practice to reveal the contents of legal advice to the government.

Senator XENOPHON: Right. But what I'm trying to understand is that if the British government is happy to state its understanding of the legal position publicly, what are the obstacles to the Australian government doing so too?

Senator Brandis: Mr Larsen has—

Senator XENOPHON: It's not an unreasonable question, Attorney.

Senator Brandis: Mr Larsen has accurately stated what the position is in relation to legal advice. You have referred to some advice to the British government. What the British government may choose to do with its legal advice is a matter for it, but that does not affect the way in which the Australian government appreciates or interprets its obligations to maintain confidentiality in relation to legal advice, and the government intends to do so, which is the orthodox practice.

Senator XENOPHON: So we won't know what the legal advice is in respect of—

Senator Brandis: No.

Senator XENOPHON: That's something that won't be disclosed?

Senator Brandis: As Mr Larsen has said, legal advice is, as a general rule, not disclosed. There are occasions when governments for particular reasons may make exception to that general principle. This is not such a case.

Senator XENOPHON: Well, let's go to this issue: what representations has the Australian government made to its Israeli counterparts on the transfer of protected persons from the West Bank to prisons inside Israel? Have there been any representations made?

Mr Neuhaus : I would have to take that specific one on notice, but we have made a wide range of representations on issues, which I referred to earlier in evidence before this Senate inquiry.

Senator XENOPHON: The British government has stated in the parliament:

We regularly raise our concerns about the treatment of Palestinian prisoners with the Israeli authorities, including routine detention of Palestinians from the West Bank in prison inside Israel. We are particularly concerned about the detention of Palestinian children in Israeli prisons. We welcome recent improvements made by the Israeli authorities, including increasing the age of majority from 16 to 18 years old. However, we remain concerned at the number of Palestinian minors held in Israeli detention.

Does the Australian government have similar concerns to those of the British government?

Mr Neuhaus : We have made representations on similar issues, as advised to the last Senate estimates, on issues relating to detainees.

Senator XENOPHON: Attorney, on your visits to Israel have you raised these issues at all, as Attorney?

Senator Brandis: Not in any official way. I have been party to conversations about the matter. But I couldn't say that—nor is it my place—to represent to foreign governments the foreign policy of the Australian government.

Senator XENOPHON: When was this last raised in a general way by you in Israel?

Senator Brandis: I was last in Israel at the end of 2015, I think.

Senator XENOPHON: Can I go to the East Timor—

Senator Brandis: No, at the end of 2014, I'm sorry.

Senator XENOPHON: Going back to the issue of the conciliation, that was something that Australia—the mediation—did resist initially, did it not?

Ms Adamson : The conciliation was a compulsory conciliation. So—

Senator XENOPHON: But the Australian government challenged the jurisdiction—

Senator Brandis: There was a jurisdictional issue raised. The advice of the former Solicitor-General, Mr Gleeson, was that we should challenge the jurisdiction for various reasons. We did so, but that challenge failed.

Senator XENOPHON: I have some other questions that I can put on notice relating to Indonesia in terms of extradition requests, unless you have them at your fingertips. How many extradition requests has the Australian government received from the Indonesian government in the past year? Is that something you would have or would you rather take it on notice?

Senator Brandis: That's a matter for the Attorney-General's Department. The Attorney-General's Department deals with extradition.

Senator XENOPHON: I will put those on notice—in relation to extradition matters between the two counties.

Senator Brandis: If those are your last words in the Senate, Senator Xenophon, may I say it's been nothing but a pleasure!

Senator WONG: How long has the post of US Ambassador to Australia been vacant?

Ms Adamson : I don't want to give you the actual date, because the answer is obvious. But let me confirm the date. It was shortly before the election when the previous ambassador, Ambassador Berry, left.

Senator Brandis: About 12 months.

Senator WONG: When is it expected to be filled? Do you have any information?

Ms Adamson : It will be filled when the normal appointment processes on the US side, and the normal diplomatic process of Australia providing agreement.

Senator WONG: Do you have any information as to what is the longest period over which the post of US Ambassador to Australia has not been filled?

Ms Adamson : I am advised that there was an 18-month gap between Ambassador McCallum and his predecessor, Tom Schieffer, in 2005-06, at the time of the George W Bush administration. If we were to go back through our entire diplomatic history it wouldn't surprise me if there had been a longer period than that at some point.

Senator WON