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Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport Legislation Committee



Senator Ruston, Assistant Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources

Department of Agriculture and Water Resources


Mr Daryl Quinlivan, Secretary

Ms Cindy Briscoe, Deputy Secretary

Ms Lyn O'Connell, Deputy Secretary

Mr David Parker, Deputy Secretary

Mr David Williamson, Deputy Secretary

Grains Research and Development Corporation

Dr Steve Jefferies, Managing Director

Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation

Mr John Harvey, Managing Director

Mrs Kay Hull, Chair

Mrs Christine Quick, General Manager, Corporate Affairs

Fisheries Research and Development Co rporation

Dr Patrick Hone, Executive Director

Mr John Wilson, Business Development Manager

Cotton Research and Development Corporation

Mr Bruce Finney,Executive Director

Mr Graeme Tolson,General Manager, Business and Finance

Horticulture Innovation Australia Limited

Mr SelwynSnell, Chair

Mr JohnLloyd, Chief Executive Officer

Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority

Ms Kareena Arthy, Chief Executive Officer

Mr Alan Norden, Executive Director, Registration Management and Evaluation

Mr Jason Lutze, Acting Executive Director, Scientific Assessment and Chemical Review

Ms Stefanie Janiec, Chief Operating Officer

Ms Geetha Nair, Executive Director, Legal and Compliance

Ms Helen Stokes, Director for the office of the Chief Executive Officer

Aust ralian Grape and Wine Authority

Mr AndreasClark, Chief Executive Officer

Animal Health Australia

Mr Duncan Rowland, Executive Manager, Biosecurity and Product Integrity Services

Plant Health Australia

Mr Greg Fraser, Executive Director and Chief Executive Officer

Australian Fisheries Management Authority

Dr James Findlay, Chief Executive Office

Dr Nick Raynes, Executive Manager, Fisheries Management Branch

Mr John Andersen, Acting General Manager, Corporate Services Branch

Dairy Australia Limited

Mr GeoffAkers, Chair

Mr IanHalliday, Managing Director

Mr Ross Joblin, Company Secretary

Mr StephenHarnett, Chief Financial Officer

Mr CharlieMcElhone, Group Manager, Trade and Strategy

Meat and Livestock Australia Limited

Mr Richard Norton, Managing Director

Australian Livestock Export Corporation Limited

Mr DavidGalvin, Chair

Mr SamuelBrown, Chief Executive Officer

Landcare Australia Limited

Ms Tessa Jakszewicz, Chief Executive Officer

Dr Shane Norrish, Head of Landcare Services

Finance and Business Support Division

Ms Emily Canning, Chief Finance Officer

Ms Vanessa Berry, Assistant Secretary, Financial Strategy Branch

Mr Matt Ryan, Assistant Secretary, Industry Support Branch

Corporate Strategy and Governance Division

Mr Simon Smalley, First Assistant Secretary

Ms Melissa Brown, Assistant Secretary, Parliamentary and Portfolio Business Branch

Mr Travis Power, Assistant Secretary, People Capability Branch

Mr Lionel Riley, Assistant Secretary, People Services Branch

Ms Victoria Anderson, Assistant Secretary, Corporate Governance Branch

Information Services Division

Mr Paul Morris, Chief Information Officer

Ms Debbie Lutter, Assistant Secretary, Strategy, Architecture and Strategic Projects

Mr Bob Smith, Assistant Secretary, ICT Services and Operations

Mr Ashraf Atteia, Assistant Secretary, Applications

Service Delivery Division

Tina Hutchison, Acting First Assistant Secretary

Office of the General Counsel

Mr Jadd Sanson-Fisher, Acting General Counsel

Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences

Mr Peter Gooday, Acting Executive Director

Ms Julie Gaglia, Assistant Secretary, Information Management Public Data Branch

Mr David Galeano, Acting Assistant Secretary, Agricultural Productivity and Farm Analysis Branch

Mr Alistair Davidson, Acting Assistant Secretary, Strategic Policy and Biosecurity Branch

Ms Trish Gleeson, Acting Assistant Secretary, Agricultural Commodities and Trade Branch

Dr Bertie Hennecke, Acting Assistant Secretary, Fisheries, Forestry and Quantitative Sciences Branch

Farm Support Division

Mr Greg Williamson, First Assistant Secretary

Mr Simon Murnane, Assistant Secretary, Farm Business Branch

Mr Paul Pak Poy, Acting Assistant Secretary, Drought and Farmer Assistance Branch

Mr Cameron Hutchison, Assistant Secretary, Concessional Loans Branch

Ms Cassandra Kennedy, Assistant Secretary, Regional Investment Corporation

Sustainable Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry Division

Mr Ian Thompson, First Assistant Secretary

Mr Peter Ottesen, Assistant Secretary, Sustainable Agriculture Branch

Mr Martin Walsh, Acting Assistant Secretary, Agvet Chemical Taskforce

Mr Gordon Neil, Assistant Secretary, Fisheries Branch

Ms Michelle Lauder, Assistant Secretary, Forestry Branch

Agricultural Policy Division

Ms Fran Freeman, First Assistant Secretary

Ms Lara Musgrave, Assistant Secretary, Rural, Research and Innovation Branch

Ms Sally Standen, Assistant Secretary, Crops, Meat and Horticulture Branch

Mr Nick Blong, Assistant Secretary, Food, Competition and Investment Branch

Ms Jo Grainger, Assistant Secretary, Wool, Dairy, Wine, Small and Emerging Industries Branch

Ms Anna Willock, Assistant Secretary, Levies Reform Taskforce

Mr Andrew McDonald, Assistant Secretary, Working Holiday Maker Visa Review

Trade and Market Access Division

Ms Louise van Meurs, First Assistant Secretary

Ms Elizabeth Bie, Assistant Secretary, Bilateral Engagement and International Cooperation Branch

Mr Matthew Worrell, Assistant Secretary, Bilateral Engagement and International Cooperation Branch

Mr Paul Ross, Assistant Secretary, Bilateral Engagement and Trade Policy Branch

Mr John Southwell, Acting Assistant Secretary, Trade and Market Access Strategy Branch

Exports Division

Mr Greg Read, First Assistant Secretary

Mr Duane Roberts, Acting Assistant Secretary, Residues and Food Branch

Ms Barbara Cooper, Assistant Secretary, Meat Exports Branch

Dr Narelle Clegg, Assistant Secretary, Live Animal Exports Branch

Mr David Cunningham, Assistant Secretary, Export Standards Branch

Biosecurity Animal Division (including Australian Chief Veterinary Officer)

Dr Mark Schipp, Chief Veterinary Officer, Australian Chief Veterinary Office

Mr Tim Chapman, First Assistant Secretary

Dr Robyn Martin, Assistant Secretary, Animal Health Policy Branch

Ms Jackie South, Assistant Secretary, Animal and Biological Import Assessments Branch

Dr Carol Sheridan, Acting Assistant Secretary, Animal Biosecurity Branch

Biosecurity Plant Division (including Australian Chief Plant Protection Officer)

Dr Marion Healy, First Assistant Secretary

Dr Sally Troy, Acting Chief Plant Protection Officer and Chief Scientist

Ms Sarah Hilton, Acting Assistant Secretary, Plant Health Policy Branch

Dr Chris Parker, Assistant Secretary, Plant Export Operations Branch

Ms Lois Ransom, Assistant Secretary, Plant Import Operations Branch

Mr David Heinrich, Assistant Secretary, Plant Biosecurity Branch

Ms Deb Langford, Assistant Secretary, Plant Strategies and Systems Branch

Compliance Division

Ms Raelene Vivian, First Assistant Secretary, Compliance Division

Mr Wayne Terpstra, Assistant Secretary, Targeting and Enforcement Branch

Mr David Mackay, Acting Assistant Secretary, Pathway Compliance Branch

Dr Robyn Cleland, Assistant Secretary, Compliance Arrangements Branch

Mr Mark Phythian, Director, Imported Food section,

Biosecurity Policy and Implementation Division

Mr Matthew Koval, First Assistant Secretary

Ms Monica Finlayson, Acting Assistant Secretary, Biosecurity Policy and Response Branch

Ms Lee Cale, Assistant Secretary, Biosecurity Implementation Branch

Ms Barbara Jones, Assistant Secretary, Intergovernmental Agreement on Biosecurity Review

Water Division

Mr Tony Slatyer, First Assistant Secretary

Mr Richard McLoughlin, Assistant Secretary, Water Resources Branch

Mr John Robertson, Assistant Secretary, Water Infrastructure Southern Branch

Murray-Darling Basin Authority

Mr Phillip Glyde, Chief Executive

Ms Jo Schumann, Executive Director, Corporate Division

Mr Carl Binning, Executive Director, Environmental Management Division

Mr David Dreverman, Executive Director, River Management Division

Mr Russell James, Executive Director, Policy and Planning Division

Mr Colin Mues, Chief Economist, Policy and Planning Division

Mr Brent Williams, General Manager, Northern Basin, Policy and Planning Division

Ms Vicki Woodburn, General Manager, Partnerships and Engagement

Committee met at 09:00

CHAIR ( Senator O'Sullivan ): Welcome. I declare open this public hearing of the Senate Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport Legislation Committee. The Senate has referred to the committee the particulars of the proposed expenditure for 2016-17 and related documents for the agriculture and water resources portfolio. The committee may also examine the annual reports of the departments and agencies appearing before it. The committee has before it a program listing agencies relating to matters on which senators have given notice, and the proceedings today will begin with the examination of the Grains Research and Development Corporation.

The committee has fixed Friday, 2 December 2016 as the date for the return of answers to questions taken on notice. Senators are reminded that any written questions on notice should be provided to the committee secretariat by close of business on Friday, 28 October 2016.

Under standing order 26, the committee must take all evidence in public session. This includes answers to questions on notice. I remind all witnesses that in giving evidence to the committee they are protected by parliamentary privilege. It is unlawful for anyone to threaten or disadvantage a witness on account of evidence given to a committee, and such action may be treated by the Senate as a contempt. It is also a contempt to give false or misleading evidence to a committee.

The Senate, by resolution in 1999, endorsed the following test of relevance of questions at estimates hearings:

Any questions going to the operations or financial positions of the departments and agencies which are seeking funds in the estimates are relevant questions for the purpose of estimates hearings.

I remind officers that the Senate has resolved that there are no areas in connection with the expenditure of public funds where any person has a discretion to withhold details or explanations from the parliament or its committees unless the parliament has expressly provided otherwise.

The Senate has resolved also that an officer of a department of the Commonwealth shall not be asked to give opinions on matters of policy, and shall be given reasonable opportunity to refer questions asked of the officer to superior officers or to a minister. This resolution prohibits only questions asking for opinions on matters of policy, and does not preclude questions asking for explanations of policies or factual questions about when and how policies were adopted.

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

The extract read as follows—

Public interest immunity claims

That the Senate—

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

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

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

(1) If:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(7) A statement that information or a document is not published, or is confidential, or consists of advice to, or internal deliberations of, government, in the absence of specification of the harm to the public interest that could result from the disclosure of the information or document, is not a statement that meets the requirements of paragraph (1) or (4).

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

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

(13 May 2009 J.1941)

(Extract, Senate Standing Orders)

Witnesses are specifically reminded that a statement that information or a document is confidential, or consists of advice to government, is not a statement that meets the requirements of the 2009 order. Instead witnesses are required to provide some specific indication of the harm to the public interest that could result from the disclosure of the information or the document.

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

Before we start, I want to put on notice that the committee may well go into a private session sometime after 10 o'clock to deal with some correspondence that the committee has received from the minister.

I now welcome Senator the Hon. Anne Ruston, Assistant Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources, representing the Minister For Agriculture And Water Resources, Mr Darryl Quinlivan, Secretary of the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources, and officers of the department. Before we start, I would like to congratulate Cindy Briscoe and David Williamson on their appointments to deputy secretary. Minister Ruston, do you or Mr Quinlivan wish to make any opening statements?

Senator Ruston: I will not, but I believe Mr Quinlivan would like to.

Mr Quinlivan : I have not so much a statement—just a couple of explanatory comments to explain where we are with implementing election commitments. Like most departments, since the election we have been busy working on commitments by the government made during the election campaign. A number of those have already been implemented. A dairy symposium to engage with industry representatives across the supply chain was held on 25 August in Melbourne. The outcome of the review into the Working Holiday Maker visa arrangements was announced by the government on 27 September 2016.

However, the implementation of some other election commitments—and I know some of these will be of interest to the committee today—are currently being prepared for cabinet consideration. We are expecting that to happen in the near future. With these, there will be some limits on the content and deliberative material we will be able to discuss today. The government has committed to the establishment of a Commonwealth Regional Investment Corporation to manage $4.5 billion in farm business and water infrastructure concessional loans, and we have established a task force to work on this project as a priority. We are expecting the government to make a decision on the implementation of that commitment in the near future.

The government is also currently considering funding and policy approvals for commitments made under the National Water Infrastructure Development Fund. The Deputy Prime Minister has written to relevant states offering bilateral schedules covering National Water Infrastructure Development Fund feasibility studies by each government.

Thirdly, there is the election commitment to relocate the Agricultural Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority to Armadale. As you know, we have commissioned external analysis and advice to assist with the provision of our advice to the government and the minister's advice to the cabinet. Consistent with standard executive government practice, and to maintain the confidentiality of the cabinet process, there will be limits on what we can talk about in relation to this report today. Once that process has been completed, of course, what material is released will be a matter for the government. Beyond those comments, we will be happy to help with any other questions the committee has today.