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Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Legislation Committee
01/06/2017
Estimates
FOREIGN AFFAIRS AND TRADE PORTFOLIO

FOREIGN AFFAIRS AND TRADE PORTFOLIO

In Attendance

Senator Brandis, Attorney-General

Senator McGrath, Assistant Minister to the Prime Minister

Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade - Portfolio and Budget Overview

Ms Frances Adamson, Secretary

Mr Ewen McDonald, Deputy Secretary

Mr Justin Brown, Deputy Secretary

Ms Sally Mansfield, Chief People Officer, Corporate Management Group

Mr Paul Wood, Chief Financial Officer

Ms Kate Logan, Assistant Secretary, Executive Branch

Foreign Affairs portfolio (non-trade programs)

Outcome 1

The advancement of Australia's international strategic, security and economic interests including through bilateral, regional and multilateral engagement on Australian Government foreign, trade and international development policy priorities.

Pacific

Program 1.1: Foreign affairs and trade operations

Program 1.2: Official Development Assistance

Mr Daniel Sloper, First Assistant Secretary, Pacific Division

Ms Alice Cawte, Assistant Secretary, Pacific Regional Branch

Dr Evanor Palac-McMiken, Director and Chief Negotiator, PACER Plus Negotiations Section

North Asia

Program 1.1: Foreign affairs and trade operations

Program 1.2: Official Development Assistance

Mr Graham Fletcher, First Assistant Secretary, North Asia Division

Southeast Asia

Program 1.1: Foreign affairs and trade operations

Program 1.2: Official Development Assistance

Program 1.4: Official Development Assistance East Asia Australia-Indonesia Partnership for Reconstruction and Development

Mr Allaster Cox, First Assistant Secretary, South-East Asia Maritime Division

Mr Philip Green, First Assistant Secretary, South-East Asia Mainland and Regional Division

South and West Asia

Program 1.1: Foreign affairs and trade operations

Program 1.2: Official Development Assistance

Ms Kathy Klugman, First Assistant Secretary, South and West Asia Division

Middle East and Africa

Program 1.1: Foreign affairs and trade operations

Program 1.2: Official Development Assistance

Mr Matthew Neuhaus, Acting First Assistant Secretary, Middle East and Africa Division

Mr Lloyd Brodrick, Assistant Secretary, Middle East Branch

Americas

Program 1.1: Foreign affairs and trade operations

Ms Julie Heckscher, First Assistant Secretary, Americas Division

Europe

Program 1.1: Foreign affairs and trade operations

Ms Louise Hand, First Assistant Secretary, Europe Division

Multilateral Policy, Development, Legal and Environment

Program 1.1: Foreign affairs and trade operations

Program 1.2: Official Development Assistance

Program 1.5: Payments to international organisations

Mr Michael Bliss, Acting Senior Legal Adviser, Legal Division

Mr Blair Exell, First Assistant Secretary, Development Policy Division

Ms Rebecca Bryant, Assistant Secretary, Foreign Policy Whitepaper Taskforce

Ms Natasha Smith, First Assistant Secretary, Multilateral Development and Finance Division

Dr Lachlan Strahan, First Assistant Secretary, Multilateral Policy Division

Mr Andrew Goledzinowski, Ambassador for People Smuggling Issues

Mr Patrick Suckling, Ambassador for the Environment, Investment and Economic Division

International security, nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation

Program 1.1: Foreign affairs and trade operations

Program 1.2: Official Development Assistance

Mr Richard Sadleir, First Assistant Secretary, International Security Division

Mr Paul Foley, Ambassador for Counter-Terrorism

Mr Tobias Feakin, Ambassador for Cyber Affairs

Dr John Kalish, Acting Director General, Australian Safeguards and Non-Proliferation Office

Services to other agencies in Australia and overseas

Program 1.1: Foreign affairs and trade operations

Mr Andrew Byrne, First Assistant Secretary, Public Diplomacy, Communications and Scholarships Division

Ms Sally Mansfield, Chief People Officer, Corporate Management Group

Ms Robyn Mudie, Executive Director, Diplomacy Academy

Ms Kate Logan, Assistant Secretary, Executive Branch

Mr Greg Hammond, Acting Executive Director, Overseas Property Office

Mr Ken Pascoe, Assistant Secretary, Strategy and Property Services Branch, Overseas Property Office

Services to diplomatic and consular representatives in Australia

Program 1.1: Foreign affairs and trade operations

Ms Lyndall Sachs, Chief of Protocol

Public diplomacy and communication

Program 1.1: Foreign affairs and trade operations

Program 1.2: Official Development Assistance

Program 1.6: New Colombo Plan—transforming regional relationships

Program 1.7: Public information services and public diplomacy

Mr Andrew Byrne, First Assistant Secretary, Public Diplomacy and Communications Division

Mr Ray Marcelo, Assistant Secretary, Parliamentary and Media Branch

Progress against Australia's development policy and performance framework

Program 1.2: Official Development Assistance

Mr Blair Exell, First Assistant Secretary, Development Policy Division

Mr Peter Versegi, First Assistant Secretary, Office of Development Effectiveness

Mr Chris Tinning, Chief Economist, Development

Mr James Gilling, First Assistant Secretary, Contracting and Aid Management Division

Ms Lisa Rauter, First Assistant Secretary, InnovationXchange

Cross-regional programs

Program 1.2: Official Development Assistance

Mr Blair Exell, First Assistant Secretary, Development Policy Division

Mr Peter Versegi, First Assistant Secretary, Office of Development Effectiveness

Dr Lachlan Strahan, First Assistant Secretary, Multilateral Policy Division

Emergency, humanitarian and refugee program

Program 1.2: Official Development Assistance

Mr Blair Exell, First Assistant Secretary, Development Policy Division

Mr Jamie Isbister, First Assistant Secretary, Humanitarian, NGOs and Partnerships Division

Multilateral replenishments and global development partnerships

Program 1.2: Official Development Assistance

Program 1.3: Official Development Assistance - multilateral replenishments

Ms Natasha Smith, First Assistant Secretary, Multilateral Development and Finance Division

NGO volunteer and community programs

Program 1.2: Official Development Assistance

Mr Jamie Isbister, First Assistant Secretary, Humanitarian, NGOs and Partnerships Division

Outcome 2

The protection and welfare of Australians abroad and access to secure international travel documentation through timely and responsive travel advice and consular and passport services in Australia and overseas.

Consular services

Program 2.1: Consular services

Mr Jon Philp, First Assistant Secretary, Consular and Crisis Management Division

Passport services

Program 2.2: Passport Services

Mr Bob Nash, Executive Director, Australian Passport Office

Outcome 3

A secure Australian Government presence overseas through the provision of security services and information and communications technology infrastructure, and the management of the Commonwealth's overseas property estate.

Security and ICT Services

Program 3.1: Foreign affairs and trade security and IT

Mr Luke Williams, Chief Security Officer

Mr Tim Spackman, Chief Information Officer, Information Management and Technology Division

Program 3.2: Overseas Property

Mr Greg Hammond, Acting Executive Director, Overseas Property Office

Trade portfolio (trade programs)

Bilateral, regional and multilateral trade negotiations

Program 1.1: Foreign affairs and trade operations

Program 1.2: Official Development Assistance

Mr Justin Brown, Deputy Secretary

Ms Trudy Witbreuk, First Assistant Secretary, Free Trade Division

Mr Michael Growder, Assistant Secretary, FTA Legal Issues and Advocacy Branch, Free Trade Division

Mr Todd Mercer, Free Trade Division, Assistant Secretary, FTA Legal Issues and Advocacy Branch, Free Trade Division

Mr Peter Roberts, Assistant Secretary, North Asia Goods Branch, Free Trade Division

Mr Simon Newnham, First Assistant Secretary, Investment and Economic Division

Dr Joanne Loundes, Chief Economist (Trade/Investment), Economic Analysis Branch, Investment and Economic Division

Mr Robert Owen-Jones, Assistant Secretary, Australian Competitiveness Branch, Investment and Economic Division

Mr James Wiblin, Assistant Secretary, Investment Trade Finance and Business Liaison Branch, Investment and Economic Division

Ms Alison Burrows, Special Negotiator (EU), Office of Trade Negotiations

Mr Hamish McCormack, First Assistant Secretary, Office of Trade Negotiations Office of Trade Negotiations

Trade development, investment, policy coordination and tourism

Program 1.1: Foreign affairs and trade operations

Program 1.8: Programs to promote Australia's international tourism interests

Mr Justin Brown, Deputy Secretary

Mr Simon Newnham, First Assistant Secretary, Investment and Economic Division

Mr Robert Owen-Jones, Assistant Secretary, Australian Competitiveness Branch, Investment and Economic Division

Export Finance and Insurance Corporation

Facilitate and encourage Australian export trade by providing financial solutions to Australian companies involved in such trade.

Mr Andrew Hunter, Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer

Mr John Hopkins, General Counsel

Mr John Pacey, Chief Credit Officer

Mr Jan Parsons, Director, Environmental and Technical Review

Ms Arti Brown, Head of External Relations

Tourism Australia

Outcome 1

Mr John O'Sullivan, Managing Director

Ms Karen Halbert, Executive General Manager, Corporate Affairs, Government and Industry

Mr Mark Craig, Executive General Manager, Corporate Services

Mr Tim Mahony, Government Affairs Manager

Ms Hayley Taylor, Government Affairs Advisor

Austrade

Outcome 1: Contribute to Australia's economic prosperity by promoting Australia's export and other international economic interests through the provision of information, advice and services to business, associations, institutions and government.

Program 1.1 Promotion of Australia's export and other international economic interests.

Program 1.2 Programs to promote Australia's export and other international economic interests.

Dr Stephanie Fahey, Chief Executive Officer

Mr Rob Donnelly, Acting Executive Director, Tourism, Investment, Education and Programs

Mr Michael Clifton, Acting Executive Director, International Operations

Mr Nick Nichles, Acting Chief Operating Officer

Mr Robert O'Meara, Chief Finance Officer

Mr Daniel Boyer, General Manager, Tourism

Ms Kelly Ralston, General Manager, International Education, Government and Programs

Mr Matthew Morgan, Acting General Manager, Trade

Ms Lynne Ashpole, Head of Executive Branch

Mr Nils van Boxsel, Chief Information Officer

Ms Maureen Dupree, Chief Human Resources Officer

Mr David Tonkin, Chief Counsel, Legal Procurement and Fraud

Ms Sally Deane, Assistant General Manager, International Issues

Mr Dan Williams, Assistant General Manager Tourism Policy

Outcome 2: The protection and welfare of Australians abroad through timely and responsive consular and passport services in specific locations overseas.

Program 2.1 Consular and Passport Services

Dr Stephanie Fahey, Chief Executive Officer

Mr Nick Nichles, Acting Chief Operating Officer

Committee met at 09:00

CHAIR ( Senator Back ): Good morning. In a moment I hope to welcome back the Attorney-General, the Hon. Senator Brandis, representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs, and I welcome back the secretary of the department of foreign affairs, Ms Adamson, and officers of the department. We are in continuation on outcome 1. Secretary, you wanted to make some points of clarification?

Ms Adamson : Thank you, Chair. First, we were asked yesterday by Senator Abetz for some information on the operation of the foreign foundations, councils and institutes. We are tabling the information that he requested this morning. Second, a number of members of the committee raised questions relating to Palestine and Israel. I would like to respond in more detail than we were able to last night.

In relation to how we know that our aid to the Palestinian territories is not being diverted to terrorists, the department has in place arrangements for due diligence, regular monitoring and reporting, and comprehensive financial checks that are aimed at ensuring that no funding goes directly or indirectly to terrorists or people linked to terrorists. Australian funding to the Palestinian Authority goes through a World Bank multi-donor trust fund. In addition to the World Bank's due diligence processes, DFAT signed an MoU with the Palestinian Authority in 2014 to ensure screening of all beneficiaries of Australian funding against comprehensive sanctions lists, including Australian and Israeli lists, in accordance with the counterterrorism and terrorist financing protocols used by the EU's PEGASE, which is the Mecanisme Palestino-Europeen de Gestion de l'Aide Socio-Economique program. Australia also funds a UN monitoring mechanism agreed by Israel and the Palestinian Authority which tracks reconstruction materials entering Gaza, including for humanitarian purposes. This mechanism provides reassurance to Israel that materials are not being misused for terrorist purposes.

We were also asked whether Australian aid to the Palestinian Authority was funding salaries for Palestinian prisoners, including convicted terrorists. The answer to that is no. The recipients of Australian funding provided to the Palestinian Authority via the World Bank trust fund are all screened against sanctions lists. Only individuals cleared through that process are able to access the public service salaries and social security benefits that our funding supports. An MoU between Australia and the Palestinian Authority requires that the Palestinian Authority commission an independent audit every six months to confirm that checks against the relevant sanctions lists have occurred. The most recent audit was provided on 7 February. It confirmed that the process had been complied with over the preceding six months.

We were also asked what we knew about the Palestinian Authority's support to terrorists. We are aware that the Palestinian Liberation Organisation, a parallel entity of the Palestinian Authority, provides financial assistance and support to the families of terrorists, including those terrorists who are killed while perpetrating an attack. Such terrorists are referred to as martyrs in official Palestinian circles. The Palestinian Authority commemorates the acts of such terrorists, including by naming public buildings and roads after them and honouring their memory through various official acts. Clearly this is completely at odds with Australian values and undermines the prospects of a meaningful peace between Israel and the Palestinians. Australia continues to raise concerns about actions which jeopardise the prospects for peace, including terrorist attacks on Israeli civilians and security personnel; tolerance of and incitement of such attacks by Palestinian leadership figures; unilateral Palestinian efforts to achieve statehood without a negotiated settlement; and Israeli settlement activity, demolitions and land expropriations. We have made clear our opposition to this policy to Palestinian counterparts. We promptly terminated our involvement with a Palestinian NGO, UAWC, after evidence emerged that they held a tree-planting ceremony in honour of so-called martyrs. We were asked whether we knew about the US congressional action to address this issue. The answer is that we do and that we are monitoring the progress of the Taylor Force Act legislation closely.

We were also asked about Australian concerns regarding Israeli settlements. I can say that Australia, including at the level of the foreign minister and Prime Minister, has raised with Israeli ministers, including Prime Minister Netanyahu, our concerns regarding Israeli settlement activities in the West Bank and our opposition to this and similar unilateral moves which undermine prospects for a negotiated two-state solution. The embassy in Tel Aviv monitors Israeli settlement plans and activities closely and makes representations from time to time on this issue in response to particular developments.

We were asked about military trials of Palestinian minors. Australia frequently discusses with Israeli officials and like-minded countries the treatment of Palestinian minors held in Israeli detention. We have urged Israel to reform and improve its practices in this area. In late 2011, then foreign minister Rudd did direct Australian officials to observe military court proceedings of Palestinian minors. This occurred in January 2012 but has not been ongoing. It has not been pursued under the current Australian government. NGOs do this work already, and we believe that the efforts of the Australian government are better directed to advocacy efforts with Israeli authorities and working with organisations such as UNICEF which have much greater expertise in this area.

We were asked whether DFAT had provided advice that contributed to the cancellation of Mr Bassem Tamimi's visa. The answer is no. Any further questions on the cancellation of Mr Tamimi's visa should be directed to the Department of Immigration and Border Protection.

CHAIR: Thank you, Secretary. Can you give the committee any update at all on whether there have been any injuries to our embassy personnel in Kabul or to other Australians who may have been affected by that bombing yesterday?

Ms Adamson : I have no further update to the information I provided last night. But, in view of your interest, should I become aware of anything in the course of the day I will make you aware of that.

Senator GALLACHER: Secretary, Budget Paper No. 2 outlines a budget measure to centralise management of the Commonwealth overseas property portfolio. Where is my old friend Mr Nixon?

Ms Adamson : Mr Nixon is not appearing at this estimates. He is away. But he looks forward very much to his next meeting with you. A colleague of his who is acting in his position will come forward.

Senator GALLACHER: Given the budget allocations to Jakarta, Bangkok, Washington and Paris, there has been probably over $800 million spent on overseas property. What are you doing? You are consolidating the portfolio. Does that mean you will get a list of the properties and publish that?

Mr Wood : Senator, I can kick off with some background to this measure. The government agreed in the 2017-18 budget to a process of centralising overseas property functions within DFAT. What that means in practice is this. There are several other agencies that operate overseas—Austrade, department of immigration, Australian Federal Police, Defence—that have their own existing property management arrangements. They enter into their own lease arrangements and they have their own property and facilities management support. The government has agreed that those functions should be consolidated within DFAT's Overseas Property Office and that DFAT would then deliver those services to those other agencies. So it is more around centralising those functions. As the budget papers note, there are no dollars associated with this. As the budget papers note as well, this will help with a better standardisation of our office and residential accommodation. So in some ways it is a bit similar to the allowances review process.

Senator GALLACHER: But all of those agencies would normally, or in a lot of cases, operate out of your existing property portfolio. Are you saying that they have other separate property portfolios?

Mr Wood : They would often have their own residential accommodation. In a lot of cases—you are correct, Senator—they would be in our chancery. One of the things that we have been looking at with this proposal is how we configure our chanceries better to make more efficient use of space. So it has got an aspect where we are looking at—

Senator GALLACHER: Are you saying that you are leasing too much floor space over in various places and you want to consolidate it? Is this like an Operation Tetris—you have had a look at the floor space that is being rented internationally and you can consolidate it, and there is efficiency there?

Mr Wood : That is one of the things that this project will look at. Because there are no dollars associated with this, we are not at that position. But this is one of the things that will be easier to review, easier to look at, following this measure.

Senator GALLACHER: In discussions with Mr Nixon either in this committee or in the Public Works Committee—all of the entities you have said operate out of your chanceries and pay rent back to the department to go to the upkeep and pay for the buildings they occupy. So what is different here? Can you be a bit more specific? Give me an example? What is separate from the existing arrangement that you are bringing in house?

Mr Wood : I think one of the aspects—

Senator GALLACHER: You do not know?

Mr Wood : One of the aspects, as is noted in the budget papers is having a common residential accommodation strategy and bringing it all—

Senator GALLACHER: Does that mean you are standardising an allowance to rent or lease? Or do you actually own the accommodation?

Mr Wood : There would be greater potential to have standard accommodation requirements for officers serving overseas.

Senator GALLACHER: Do you normally own accommodation overseas outside the head of mission? Do they live on site as they will in, say Jakarta, if they are at a certain level? I think most of the people in Jakarta actually preferred to live in Jakarta; they did not want to live in the compound. What are we talking about here?

Ms Adamson : There is a wide range of accommodation arrangements for Australian officials overseas. Some of them are indeed in owned properties—a number of them in compounds, as you know. But there has been a practice for what we often refer to as attached agencies to take on their own leases for residential accommodation. The standards for those have varied and the approaches to those have varied. This measure gives the Overseas Property Office the full authority and the leverage, if you like, to draw all of those various strands together, to standardise, as Mr Wood has said, the floor space per person, and to consolidate where we can rental arrangements on particular sites. Even small differences, as you would know, can make a—it gives us more power in the market, potentially, also. We need to investigate in more detail but it was something that we wanted and we think that ultimately there will be scope for efficiencies.

Senator GALLACHER: We would appreciate it if, on notice, we could have a look the business case for that. What does the footprint look like at the moment, where are you going, and how are you going to achieve it? It was not immediately clear to me that that is what you were doing. I thought you were going to do something eminently sensible like have a look at your portfolio, see how much rate of return it is getting, see how much income it is getting and make sure that you do not have to go to the budget for X hundreds of millions of dollars like you need to in Washington to repair a building and have a temporary chancery for five years. You have an iconic list of properties. Could we get a list of all the properties you own in the missions?

Ms Adamson : Yes. We can take that and the question you have just referred to on notice.

Senator GALLACHER: It is quite a disparate group of properties. I had the wonderful opportunity to have a wander through Australia House in London, which was built in 1918 or thereabouts and is a stunning example of Australian materials and a stunning building. And then if you cross the water to Washington—people cannot walk safely past our building. I find that extraordinary. So could we have a list of the properties, with the location, the nature of the property—chancery, HOMs—and the book value of the property? I think this is a really interesting issue. I remember the Tokyo property at the height of Japanese economic power being one of the most highly priced pieces of real estate in the world. The current market value of the properties would be very interesting. It really does challenge the Public Works Committee in particular when we are looking at, in the public interest, value for money, any income production—you very rarely come forward with the actual income-producing disclosure. So if you do segregate the costs back to the different departments of AFP, Defence or whatever and it is income producing, that should be abundantly clear. It is not always clear in the work that Mr Nixon has done with the Public Works Committee. One example of how you did it really well was in Paris, where you spent a high sum of money but you tagged on the amount of rent you were getting, so we could just move through to the next job. But we should know the commercial arrangements in respect of these properties.

Ms Adamson : We are very happy to make more information available. We do see it as a significant responsibility of DFAT to manage the overseas property portfolio as efficiently as we can over time. The departmental executive and I take a close interest in that and receive regular reports. But we are very happy indeed for Mr Nixon and his colleagues to brief you in more detail.

Mr Wood : Senator, I should add a clarification. The costs of the Washington embassy, which was a measure in the 2015-16 budget, have come from the sales proceeds of the Jakarta and Bangkok embassies. That was a measure that was agreed in 2015-16.

Senator GALLACHER: And do you know the astounding thing about that, Mr Wood? It is that I knew that but not one other member of the committee knew that, because you did not put it in your proposal up front. I knew because we had actually visited the Jakarta and Bangkok sites and it had been disclosed that the Bangkok site—which is still perfectly functional; it has just been outgrown by 20-storey buildings either side—would be sold, obviously to a developer to build a multistorey building or some such, and that it would be reinvested. It is pretty untidy when you do not actually underpin your business case with where the funds are coming from. What were the costs of this measure? You are meeting it from within existing resources. So if we could have a look at the footprint, what it is going to cost to evaluate and where the money is coming from, that would also be helpful.

Mr Wood : I also note that there is a small staffing element of this. There are three staff who are transferring over from Austrade into the DFAT Overseas Property Office to assist with this transition.

Senator GALLACHER: If you could give us the staffing levels and the anticipated breakdown of costs, that would be very handy. Where do things like Qatar—where you leased a five-star building and fitted it out for what I thought was an extraordinary amount of money—fit in your portfolio? How do you account for leased properties? Presumably you own most of the properties—or is it a fifty-fifty split? I do not think that is really it.

Mr Wood : I am happy to come back with some detail on that. You are right: it is a split between owned and leased accommodation. I am happy to come back with information on that.

Senator GALLACHER: It would be interesting to see where that fits in this consolidation. And a list of the agencies that normally are your tenants? There must be some complex formula where you devise a rental amount for the different tenants that you have. And I suppose that that would be different in—having visited Thailand, where a lot of immigration-type offices have a bigger footprint, maybe they pay more there than they do in other parts.

Ms Adamson : We can provide you with that detail, Senator.

Senator GALLACHER: What will you do in this exercise? Will you total up the whole cost and then put it back through the portfolio to recover it? Will other agencies be paying for their own evaluation of their tenancies and footprints and consolidations?

Mr Wood : Overall we would expect some savings. It was more around the efficiencies and centralising it within the Overseas Property Office.

Senator GALLACHER: Do you expect this to be a savings measure over the longer term? I think you alluded to the review of allowances. Is this an area where different arrangements have grown up because they have not been centrally managed, and you are now seeking to centrally manage but acquit those arrangements—

Mr Wood : That could well be the case. It is early to say at this stage. Obviously, as you would be aware, with leases there are lags. You often cannot get out of leases. You have got to wait for them to expire and enter into new ones. But there is potential.

Senator GALLACHER: You would expect to save money in this exercise?

Mr Wood : There would be an expectation over the medium to longer term.

Senator GALLACHER: Is there any amount that you have premised a business case on?

Mr Wood : No.

Senator GALLACHER: When would you expect savings to be realised, if there are any?

Mr Wood : I think we will be able to start identifying savings within the forward estimates, so by 2020-21 we will be able start identifying some of those.

Senator GALLACHER: Will those savings be shared with the entities that you lease to—is that how it works? If you reduce to a lower operating footprint, does that mean they get a share of that efficiency? Or do you just bank the savings.

Mr Wood : It will be too early to say. As you point out, there are two options. It is too early to say.

Senator GALLACHER: You are going to have a business case which scrutinises all of the arrangements in place and tries to capture any economies of scale in service provision?

Mr Wood : Spot on.

Senator GALLACHER: Does this mean that there will be a consolidation? If someone like AFP or Defence is outside the footprint, you will move to consolidate them inside available space in your chanceries or—

Mr Wood : Good point, Senator. I would just clarify—and it is noted in the budget measure—that what is called in the budget papers 'specific operational facilities' are excluded. You could probably imagine what those are. Those facilities of those agencies are excluded. It is more the residential and office accommodation.

Senator GALLACHER: Are there any other efficiencies if you consolidate, in terms of secretarial staff or support staff, hot-desking—how does it work?

Mr Wood : These are some of the things that could be considered. It may depend on the relevant chancery and the types of footprint that those chanceries have. But that is one potential.

Senator GALLACHER: We know that there are fewer and fewer buildings owned in Australia. What is the general position with respect to overseas properties? Do we own more than we lease?

Mr Wood : That is one of the things that we will need to come back on.

Senator GALLACHER: You do not know?

Mr Wood : I do not know.

Senator GALLACHER: Mr Nixon would know. He is not here.

Ms Adamson : Senator, I am confident that we lease more than we own. But, as Mr Wood says, we will come back to you with the precise proportions. We have certainly made it a practice to continue to own iconic properties, such as Australia House in London, as you mentioned, and a number of others. Over time, though, decisions are made in terms of the best use of public money about whether it is more efficient to lease or to continue to own. The nature of the global property market is changing, as you know. That creates sometimes some new opportunities—a new property comes on the market which we are able to take more efficiently. So, as Mr Wood has said, the review is intended to deliver better value for money for the Commonwealth. We also are very keen to improve service delivery, to reduce the Commonwealth's overseas property footprint and to reduce the resources involved in handling overseas property matters. We are very happy to engage in discussion with the committee and with you, given your particular interest in this, as we go through that process.

Mr Wood : In DFAT's annual report for 2015-16, page 179, there is a reference to our properties. It states that we have overseas 167 owned properties and 802 leased properties. Those leased properties would be residential accommodation.

Senator GALLACHER: So 802 would be residential?

Mr Wood : No—the majority of those would be, given that we have 100 overseas posts.

Senator GALLACHER: What should I draw from that? Does this measure include examining commercial arrangements you have in place? Do you test that against—from what I have seen in Jakarta and Bangkok, the overriding concern was security.

Ms Adamson : Yes.

Senator GALLACHER: You have a security concern almost everywhere we operate. How do you balance owning and controlling everything in terms of security versus leasing? Is there an examination going on there?

Ms Adamson : That is something that we constantly have in the front of our minds. Security, as you say, is our overriding concern. In a number of capitals around the world it is the dominant concern. But it is always a relevant concern not only for our chancery properties, whether owned or leased, but also for residential accommodation. There are a number of factors which go into consideration of all of this. The Overseas Property Office examine them all, but in close consultation with our chief security officer.

Senator GALLACHER: So you will examine the commercial aspects of own, security and lease?

Ms Adamson : That is the ongoing role of the Overseas Property Office.

Senator WONG: Secretary, I will go first to a question from Senator Bilyk in relation to complaints about the conduct of ministerial staff that you and I have previously discussed. The original question was, I think, a chamber question, no. 324, and then it was no. 38 from the additional estimates questions on notice. Now I think—just so we get the dictionary definitions right—what is clear about the answer to Senator Bilyk's question is that when you say 'DFAT is not aware of any complaints' you are only referring to DFAT Canberra. I think that is clear from the answer.

Ms Adamson : I answered the whole of the question.

Senator WONG: No—it says on the second page of question on notice 38, 'DFAT refers to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade headquarters in Canberra'. That is what you have written.

Ms Adamson : That is right.

Senator WONG: Given that it has been fairly narrowly answered, I would like it broadly answered. I will try to use words that we agree. Do you or any other SES officer have knowledge of any complaints or concerns raised with any A-based or locally engaged officer regarding a member of ministerial staff? And does any head of mission at any DFAT post have knowledge of any complaints or concerns raised with any A-based or locally engaged officers regarding a member of ministerial staff?

Ms Adamson : I think the best way of answering that question is to say this. You yourself have been involved in ministerial visits, I know. I have on a range of occasions, both as a member of ministerial office staff and as a DFAT officer and an ambassador. These visits are often fast paced with many elements. They naturally bring pressure to bear both on embassy staff and on ministerial office staff. It is not unheard of occasionally for frustrations to be vented on either side. I have seen a number of examples of that over the years. In my role as secretary, though, I make very clear to our staff that I expect professional behaviour at all times. I know that all four ministerial offices, ministers themselves and chiefs of staff, have made clear an expectation that staff travelling with ministers will always conduct themselves in a professional manner. There are times when tensions rise. But in my experience they are always professionally dealt with. Certainly if I become aware, as secretary, of any example where that is not the case I will certainly act on it.

Senator WONG: That is a good general answer. But I am asked about complaints or concerns raised, again, specifically. Do you or any SES officer have knowledge of complaints or concerns raised with any A-based or locally engaged officers regarding a member of ministerial staff since July 2016? And does any head of mission at any DFAT post have any knowledge of complaints or concerns raised with any A-based or locally engaged officers regarding a member of ministerial staff?

Ms Adamson : I am aware that in the period that you have referred to there have been occasions both where embassy staff and where ministerial staff have felt that tensions have been raised, that frustrations have been vented. This is not unusual but in my experience it is always professionally managed and does not spill over and affect work. But it is only natural that, given the pressures that people are working under and the need, often, for information at short notice or changes to programs at short notice, occasionally tempers should fray.

Senator WONG: What are your processes? For example, at a post if there is the sort of scenario you have described between a member of ministerial staff and a DFAT officer where, as you have described it, tensions rise and tempers fray, and the DFAT officer wishes to take it further or wishes to do something about it, in your internal protocol is there a process of communication with the officers next in line? Does it require that it go to the head of mission? Tell me what the process would be.

Ms Adamson : As in any workplace, if issues are raised they are normally raised with a supervisor—that is in Canberra or at post. If an issue were to occur out of sight of the deputy head of mission or head of mission, then I think the expectation of most heads of mission and deputies would be that staff would raise the matter directly with them or with a supervisor. Often these things can arise in the moment and can be dealt with immediately. Sometimes it goes to something that is bigger than that. But in my experience these things are best dealt with directly and openly. That is the certainly the approach that I encourage in my staff.

Senator WONG: Is this all documented?

Ms Adamson : Is what all documented?

Senator WONG: You have essentially told us this morning that there have been issue between ministerial staff and DFAT officers in the period I have asked about. You have used phrases such as 'tempers frayed', 'tensions raised', 'issues vented' et cetera. I just want to understand if there is a process of documenting any complaints or concerns raised by you staff at posts.

Ms Adamson : There is no formal documented, laid-out process, although there are processes that apply to all public servants—and we all use them if need be—relating to bullying and harassment. But, leaving that to one side, common sense would normally prevail. Someone would say something to someone and then the matter would normally be dealt with. Certainly the whole department knows, both here and overseas that I do not tolerate bullying behaviour or behaviour where senior officers are making unreasonable demands of junior officers, and that there is an expectation of professional behaviour. And I know that ministerial offices have the same approach, because I have discussed it with them.

Senator WONG: What led you to discuss it with them?

Ms Adamson : Coming in as secretary, there were a number of matters that I discussed with ministerial offices. I became aware that there had been issues raised but no formal complaints lodged.

Senator WONG: I am sorry to interrupt your flow of thought, and I would like to come back to that, but what do you mean by 'issues raised but no formal complaint'?

Ms Adamson : That there had been instances of the kind that I referred to before which had arisen over, I think, many years. Certainly over my 30-year-plus career I am aware of instances of this. The question is how they are dealt with.

Senator WONG: No—that is not the question I am asking. We can have a long conversation about that. I understand why you want to keep saying that. You became aware when you became secretary of instances of issues being raised but not formal complaints. Can you tell me what the difference is between issues being raised and formal complaints.

Ms Adamson : Yes, I can. I became aware—well, not became aware, because I have always known it to be the case—that occasionally during ministerial visits under high pressure in both directions staff can sometimes express frustrations or feel that they are under great pressure. That being the case, I have spoken to ministerial offices about my own approach with departmental staff and confirmed with them that we have a shared approach when it comes to an expectation of professional behaviour on the part of both travelling parties and embassy staff.

Senator WONG: How were you advised when you became secretary, or how did you become aware, of these issues having been raised?

Ms Adamson : Colleagues spoke to me and said that during various visits from time to time these issues arise.

Senator WONG: In relation to which posts have these issues arisen.

Ms Adamson : They have arisen in relation to, I think, our UN mission in New York and possibly our mission in Tel Aviv also. There may be other posts, because, as I say, it is not unusual for this sort of thing—for people to feel under the sort of pressure that ministerial offices deal with, in my experience, on a day-to-day basis but is not always familiar to embassy staff, particularly in posts which do not necessarily receive regular ministerial visits or in posts where there are new staff. The idea is that we work together as well as we possibly can as a team to produce outcomes for government while behaving professionally at all time.

Senator WONG: My experience both as a minister and as a shadow is that DFAT and other staff in our posts overseas have been extremely helpful and very professional. In relation to Tel Aviv, are you able to say how many issues, incidents or complaints have been raised?

Ms Adamson : No, because, as I say, these were general points made to me and I acted on them immediately. There was no need for me to know every single detail. What I am concerned about is general patterns of behaviour and the need for everyone to understand, in essence, the pressures that ministerial office staff are dealing with and, in the case of ministerial office staff, the pressures that embassy staff are dealing with. I think that where there is understanding of that and a shared objective then these things can be worked through even though there is pressure all round.

Senator WONG: In relation to the UN mission, are you able to give us any more detail about how many incidents or what sorts of issues—

Ms Adamson : No. Again, I became aware of a general issue and raised in immediately.

Senator WONG: In relation to which ministerial visits to Tel Aviv have these issues arisen?

Ms Adamson : They arose in relation to visits by the foreign minister in September last year, I think.

Senator WONG: And in relation to which ministerial visits have the issues at the UN mission in New York been raised?

Ms Adamson : Those issues arose during a time when there were a number of delegations visiting New York, so the mission was under particular pressure.

Senator WONG: Is this for leaders' week or something like that? There were three ministers there at the time?

Ms Adamson : I think that is right. It was certainly the busiest week of the year for the mission.

Senator WONG: In relation to that one, were the issues raised in respect of the Prime Minister's staff, the foreign minister's staff or—who was the third minister?

Ms Adamson : I think it was in relation to people movements and refugees, so—

Senator WONG: Yes—Mr Dutton.

Ms Adamson : I think it may have been the Minister for Immigration and Border Protection. The issue that I became aware of raised in relation to the foreign minister's visit. As I say, it was dealt with by me as soon as I became aware of it after the visit. As far as I am aware, there is no ongoing issue.

Senator WONG: How did you deal with both the Tel Aviv and New York issues?

Ms Adamson : I spoke to the minister's office and said I had become aware of issues having been raised by staff. I said that it was my expectation that on both sides staff would always behave in a professional manner. I should say also that I have only ever observed the staff of all our ministerial offices behave in a professional manner. But the extent of the pressure I think one can become quite used to if one works in this place. It is a different kind of pressure that our overseas missions face. So I have not interpreted it as anything other than expressions of frustration while under pressure that have not endured. They have been in the moment and have certainly not been evident in continuing behaviour by the people concerned. In fact they are, to a person, very thoughtful and accommodating. So from my point of view this was something that was raised, that I dealt with immediately and that has no ongoing effect. And I think DFAT staff are confident that they will be backed up should they find themselves in a position like this again.

Senator WONG: Were there any health and safety—any other assistance that DFAT staff required as a result of these issues.

Ms Adamson : Not that I am aware of.

Senator WONG: I should be clear: I am not going to ask you who the staff member is but I am going to ask you whether it was the same member or members of staff in relation to whom the issues were raised.

Ms Adamson : I think that is correct.

Senator WONG: I gave you two options.

Ms Adamson : The same.

Senator WONG: The same member of staff?

Ms Adamson : Yes.

Senator WONG: In the foreign minister's office?

Ms Adamson : Yes.

Senator WONG: I think you have said you have raised it with the chief of staff of the foreign minister and all four ministers in your portfolio.

Ms Adamson : Yes.

Senator WONG: Do you know if there was anything written in terms of expectations that you were party to about staff behaviour as a consequence of that?

Ms Adamson : I am not quite sure what you mean.

Senator WONG: Sorry—it was a bit convoluted. As a result of you expressing these concerns and your legitimate desire for professional behaviour on both sides, was there any written direction to staff issued by ministers or their chiefs of staff—written expectations—that you are aware of, as to behaviour?

Ms Adamson : Can I just say that instantly and immediately chiefs of staff have agreed with my approach to these issues. I think they have no tolerance for behaviour that is anything other than courteous at all times, and neither do I. I have been advised that staff have been reminded of this in ministerial offices. Without going into details, in the department I have certainly, through my regular forums with staff, let it be known that where I become aware of instances of behaviour which is less than professional in the department in any setting, or indeed elsewhere, I will take action on that. There is a written record of that at my end. The way that that has been conveyed here has been a matter for offices. But I know it has been done.

Senator WONG: Was that a yes?

Ms Adamson : I am not aware of any written communication but I do know there has been communication. From my perspective there is no ongoing issue here. These things when they arise—and it only stands to reason that they will—are best dealt with promptly. They have been. There is no ongoing issue. Indeed I think the people concerned on both sides probably have a sense of regret that these things happened. Certainly it is not a continuing pattern of behaviour.

Senator WONG: I assume that, whether at Tel Aviv or the UN mission, there has been no negative consequence for any DFAT officer who has raised issues.

Ms Adamson : Of course not, Senator.

Senator WONG: I did say 'I assume'. I have finished for the moment on that topic.

Senator KITCHING: Could I ask about President Trump's inauguration and the tickets. We asked about this in the spillover. Were the enquiries regarding the inauguration or associated events recorded at the mission in Washington? A number of enquiries were made of the Australian embassy there with respect to the issuing of tickets.

Ms Heckscher : After we received questions on this subject at the last estimates, we went back to our embassy to check. It seems that, as you would expect, the embassy received an awful lot of enquiries. Most of the initial enquiries were not recorded. I gather the advice provided by the embassy was that, generally speaking, following all enquiries on the inauguration tickets—some of which came from business, some of which came from the public, as you can imagine—the embassy had a standard process of replying, which was to advise that there really was not a straightforward process for applying for tickets—

Senator WONG: Was that in writing? They would respond in writing, or just over the phone?

Ms Heckscher : This was over the phone. Some of them may well have been emails as well. They received a lot and they did not keep records of all of the people who enquired. The general advice that they gave that was standard—and some of them came through personal contacts and some would have been asked of embassy officials; there was a whole raft of enquiries. They advised of the process for getting tickets, which was that there were not invited tickets—that it was heads of mission and that was it—and they cautioned of the security and other issues. The only process really for getting hold of tickets was through tickets allocated to members of Congress, for example—and the difficulties and the security requirements that would be in place, as well as the weather constraints. Their general process was to receive the enquiries and give that advice back. They did not keep a record of all of those enquiries that they received.

Senator KITCHING: Did they record, though, if Australian parliamentarians made a request for tickets?

Ms Heckscher : They did. We have answered a question on notice on this.

Senator KITCHING: Yes. I am just wondering if they were all recorded. There were particular questions around the tickets that were obtained for Senator Roberts, which were later assigned to Senator Burston. But I am just wondering if other MPs or senators' requests were recorded.

Ms Heckscher : The best information I have is that supplied in the response to the question on notice, which is that whether or not parliamentarians were part of that earlier group—they may well have been—their details were not recorded. There were, so far as the best information from the embassy goes, only two requests that we go forward and try to obtain tickets. Those were from Senator Roberts and from the Hon. Fred Nile. That is confirmed in the question on notice response.

Senator KITCHING: Senator Hanson tweeted that she had been gifted tickets. There were many headlines that Senator Hanson was invited to the inauguration. Was she invited?

Ms Heckscher : Not to our knowledge.

Senator KITCHING: Were any parliamentarians invited?

Ms Heckscher : Not to our knowledge. The advice that we had from the State Department at the time was that heads of mission were being invited to represent governments. Our ambassador in Washington, Joe Hockey, attended.

Senator KITCHING: The Prime Minister received an invitation?

Ms Heckscher : No. Heads of mission were—

Senator KITCHING: So he did not receive one.

Ms Heckscher : No. My understanding and the embassy's understanding is that, consistent with advice from the US State Department, foreign delegations would not be invited. Heads of state and government were represented by chiefs of diplomatic missions. Consistent with that, the embassy received an invitation for our ambassador, Joe Hockey, to attend, and Ambassador Hockey attended.

Senator KITCHING: In relation to the two tickets that Senator Burston ended up receiving, did DFAT assist with his travel or any arrangements—anything like that?

Ms Heckscher : Not that I am aware—and I think that in the process of making these enquiries we would be aware. As you would appreciate, it is the practice of our missions overseas to assist travelling parliamentarians where they can, consistent with available resources, constraints and the like.

Senator KITCHING: As you might for any Australian citizen?

Ms Heckscher : Yes.

Senator KITCHING: I will move now to the foreign minister's travel. I am going to refer to questions on notice 68, 21, 22, 69, 42 and 29. I will go first to 68. This is from the additional estimates. One of the questions in that was:

Did Minister Bishop attend the 2016 Portsea Polo in her official capacity as Foreign Minister? If so, please detail the nature of the business conducted at the event which constitutes ministerial business.

The response to that question is:

This is a question for the Foreign Minister as she has discretion over events she attends.

We went to the Department of Finance records—and I am happy to table these. For example, in relation to travelling allowance the foreign minister has detailed for 8 January 2016 and the location Portsea 'Minister—Official Business'. There are also Comcar records and domestic fares: 8 January 2016, Sydney to Melbourne; then 10 January 2016, Melbourne to Perth. As I said, there are also Comcar records. If the foreign minister has listed this as official business but the question on notice response was, 'This is a question for the Foreign Minister as she has discretion over events she attends', is there not some conflict in the description there? Do you keep a diary? If she is attending official business, as she herself states in her travelling records, do you not then keep a note of the official business on which she is attending?

Senator Brandis: Senator Kitching, I think, if I understand your question correctly, that you are seeking an interpretation of an answer provided by the Department of Finance. Is that right?

Senator KITCHING: No. Minister Bishop has listed this as official business. I am asking DFAT why—

Senator Brandis: You are asking me, actually.

Senator KITCHING: Feel free to answer.

Senator Brandis: So what is the question?

Senator KITCHING: The foreign minister has listed the location as Portsea and 'Minister—Official Business' as the detail description.

Senator Brandis: To what document do you refer?

Senator KITCHING: I am happy to table it, Chair.

Senator Brandis: Just tell me to what document you refer.

Senator KITCHING: It is travelling allowance for 1 January to 30 June 2016 for the Hon. Julie Bishop.

Senator Brandis: And what is the source of that document?

Senator KITCHING: It is from Finance. I know that we have had this discussion in another committee where you also imputed—

Senator Brandis: Has the document to which you are referring been provided to you by the Department of Finance?

Senator KITCHING: It is publicly available. You can get it on a website.

Senator Brandis: Has it been provided to you by the Department of Finance in response to a question asked of them?

Senator KITCHING: It is a Department of Finance document.

Senator Brandis: In response to a question asked of them—is that right?

Senator KITCHING: No—it is on their website. You may not be aware of it, but you can go to the Department of Finance's website—

Senator Brandis: Senator Kitching, I am merely seeking to establish whether, as I understood you to be saying before, you are asking these questions on the basis of responses provided to you by the Department of Finance to questions asked of that department.

Senator WONG: Chair, I am not sure what Senator Kitching has but from her questions I understand that this is the publicly available documentation in relation to all members' and senators' travel. Is that right?

Senator KITCHING: Yes.

Senator Brandis: But that was not the enquiry I was making.

Senator KITCHING: The enquiry I am making, Senator Brandis—

Senator Brandis: No, I was—

Senator WONG: On a point of order, Chair, can she finish her question before being interrupted?

Senator KITCHING: My question is: why has the foreign minister listed '8 January 2016, Portsea, Minister—Official Business' and then claimed the travelling allowance? The department's answer when that question was put to them—

Senator Brandis: Which department?

Senator KITCHING: DFAT. When the question was put to them—let me read it again for your edification.

Did Minister Bishop attend the 2016 Portsea Polo in her official capacity as Foreign Minister? If so, please detail the nature of the business conducted at the event which constitutes ministerial business.

This is question on notice 68, just so that we are clear—the response to the question is:

This is a question for the Foreign Minister as she has discretion over events she attends.

That response does not seem to gel with her description that is contained within the Department of Finance document, which says 'Minister—Official Business'. So what I would like to ask—

Senator Brandis: Well, that is a finance department document.

Senator KITCHING: the department through you, Senator Brandis—

Senator WONG: Chair, it is the finance—the material that the senator is referring to reflects the foreign minister's assertion or categorisation about the travel. The Attorney-General wants to distract from this.

Senator Brandis: No, I do not. I just want to establish what we are talking about.

Senator WONG: Let me finish, please.

Senator Brandis: No, you—

Senator WONG: We have been very polite in this committee—

Senator Brandis: Senator Wong, if—

Senator WONG: If I could finish, Chair—

CHAIR: One at a time.

Senator Brandis: If you give me a moment, I will—

Senator WONG: Can I finish and then he can have a turn.

Senator Brandis: respond to you immediately.

Senator WONG: You can—when I have finished.

Senator Brandis: Do not mislead the committee.

Senator WONG: I am not misleading. I would like to finish. Thank you. I know that the Attorney-General wants us to talk about something else, but it is entirely relevant for the senator to ask about what the foreign minister has asserted is the nature of the travel. Whether or not it is a Department of Finance document which records it, it is the foreign minister's assertion—as we all do whenever we fill out our travel declarations. Thank you.

CHAIR: I now invite the Attorney-General to respond to Senator Kitching's question.

Senator Brandis: Senator Kitching, I am merely trying to establish the provenance of this document to which you are referring.

Senator KITCHING: And I have told you.

Senator Brandis: So this is a document supplied to you by the Department of Finance, is it?

Senator WONG: Recording what Ms Bishop wrote.

Senator KITCHING: Senator Brandis, I am not sure whether you are aware that you can go onto the internet—

Senator Brandis: Senator Kitching, just tell the committee, would you please—

Senator KITCHING: It is the Department of Finance's official record—

Senator Brandis: what is the provenance or source of the document—

Senator WONG: I have told him.

Senator KITCHING: Why don't I table the document so that we can have it on—

Senator Brandis: Let us have a look at the document.

Senator KITCHING: You will notice that it is helpfully highlighted in pink for you.

Senator WONG: Is that your only copy?

Senator KITCHING: Yes. They will photocopy it.

Senator WONG: Okay.

Senator Brandis: Just let me have a look at it. Since I was the one who made the enquiry, perhaps I can just look at it. What was your question?

Senator KITCHING: May I have the document back, please. My question is: given that the foreign minister has described the travel to Portsea as official business, there is a discrepancy, firstly, between that description and the department's response to QON 68, which I am sure Ms Adamson has there for you. It is particularly response No. 5.

Senator Brandis: That is not correct. There is no discrepancy at all, as a matter of fact.

Senator KITCHING: She has discretion over events she attends.

Senator Brandis: Correct. It is not a discrepancy.

Senator KITCHING: But it is not—the foreign minister has described it as official business. So why does the department say—

Senator Brandis: The answer to question—

CHAIR: Attorney-General, would you let Senator Kitching finish the question and then I will invite you—

Senator KITCHING: In response to the QON, if it is official business to attend the Portsea Polo, as Foreign Minister Bishop asserts in her own documents and her own description, the response from the department, saying that it is an event that the foreign minister—it is an event for her diary, so there is discrepancy in those descriptors. Secondly, if it is official business then why does the department not have a diary note of the foreign minister attending to official business on 8 January in Portsea? I would like to know, as I asked in the question on notice. If you turn to question 5 of that:

Did Minister Bishop attend the 2016 Portsea Polo in her official capacity as Foreign Minister. If so, please detail the nature of the business conducted at the event which constitutes ministerial business.

CHAIR: Thank you. I invite the Attorney-General to respond.

Senator Brandis: Thank you, Chair. I have a very strong sense of a straw man being constructed before our eyes here. I have inspected the document you have quoted from. The document does not say what you assert that it says, nor is there any discrepancy whatsoever between what is contained in the finance department document which you have produced and the answer to question No. 5, and it is utterly dishonest to suggest that there is a discrepancy.

Senator KITCHING: So what is the official business?

Senator Brandis: The answer to question No. 5 is:

This is a question for the Foreign Minister as she has discretion over events she attends.

Senator KITCHING: So what is the—

Senator Brandis: If I may finish, please. There is no discrepancy whatsoever between that statement and anything contained in the finance department document, which you have actually misdescribed. Nevertheless—

Senator KITCHING: No, I have not—I have read out to you exactly what it says. Would you like me to go to the Comcar records?

Senator Brandis: I have inspected the document, Senator. You have speculated upon what the document contains.

Senator KITCHING: We are about to have—because now we are going to go through other events, Senator Brandis.

Senator Brandis: I have now looked at the document and it does not contain what you assert that it contains. In any event, we will take the question on notice.

Senator KITCHING: Let us go to Comcar records. On 8 January 2016—

Senator Brandis: Senator, we will—

Senator KITCHING: Melbourne, $416; 10 January 2016—

Senator Brandis: Excuse me, Chair—

Senator KITCHING: Melbourne, $487.

Senator Brandis: Chair, this is—

Senator KITCHING: As we have read out, Portsea—

CHAIR: Senator Kitching can you hold for a moment. There is a point of order.

Senator Brandis: I am not sure if I am at liberty to take points of order as a witness before the committee; nevertheless, I seek your intervention. This is not a question. It is reading onto the record a document from which already in the last few minutes Senator Kitching has misquoted. I have said we will take the questions on notice. All questions—

Senator KITCHING: Chair—

Senator Brandis: May I advise the committee that all questions in relation to the finance department document which Senator Kitching is referring to will be taken on notice so that an enquiry can be made.

Senator MOORE: On the point of order, Chair, it is quite common in this process when we have questions put on notice to have it read into the record. We do it regularly. It is a standard practice and when we say we are putting something on notice it happens. You can check any of the Hansard coverage on that.

Senator Brandis: I think the problem is that the document—we have now had a statement from Senator Kitching that she has tabled the document. So the document—

Senator KITCHING: I will say again, because we are going to go back to 2015 as well—

Senator Brandis: Senator Kitching, you have tabled document. Your question is: what is the official business—

Senator KITCHING: And I want to know—yes, what was the official business—

Senator Brandis: and we will take that question on notice.

Senator KITCHING: that the foreign minister conducted, as I asked in March. So in question on notice No. 68—that was in the additional estimates in March—is 'Did Minister Bishop attend the 2016 Portsea Polo in her official capacity as Foreign Minister'. According to the foreign minister's own description, which she gave to the Department of Finance, she describes it as 'Minister—Official Business'. I would like to know—

Senator Brandis: And you are asking what the official business was.

Senator KITCHING: I would like to know, if she did—

Senator Brandis: I have taken that question on notice.

Senator KITCHING: 'If so, please detail the nature of the business conducted at the event which constitutes ministerial business'.

Senator Brandis: I have taken that question on notice.

Senator KITCHING: No, I have not—I want to also go back—

Senator GALLACHER: Chair, can I just seek a point of clarification. This line of questioning is in response to a direct answer from the department on notice.

CHAIR: Correct.

Senator GALLACHER: Where there was a statement that was inconsistent.

CHAIR: Thank you, Senator Gallacher. You are quite right. The Attorney-General has indicated to the committee that he will take the question on notice and he will provide a written answer once you have received that.

Senator Brandis: You have identified a number of entries in the document which I have inspected. The document does not speak for itself, by the way. I have taken on notice your question what is the official business in relation to the identified matters in the document. That is fine. We will take that on notice.

Senator KITCHING: It actually—it is the Department of Finance's document which is populated by information from the foreign minister. I want to go back to 2015, because the foreign minister was also in Melbourne on official business on 9 January 2015 to 10 January 2015—

Senator Brandis: Is this another document from which you are quoting?

Senator KITCHING: From the Department of Finance again.

Senator Brandis: May we see it, please?

Senator KITCHING: Certainly. You will also note there are airfares there as well, but the descriptor on this page says, 'Minister—Official Business'. It says 'Melbourne'. The 2016 one says 'Portsea' but 9 to 10 January, so I would like to know—

Senator Brandis: While I am looking at it, would you—

Senator KITCHING: Wait—there is more.

Senator Brandis: If you would be good enough to let me look at the document, please. You have highlighted one entry on page 5 of this document.

Senator KITCHING: Yes. That is when the polo was on.

Senator Brandis: 9 January—

Senator KITCHING: I would like to know what that official business was.

Senator Brandis: 10 January—

Senator KITCHING: 2015.

Senator Brandis: 2015, 'Melbourne—Official Business'. And you want to know what the official business was?

Senator KITCHING: Yes.

Senator Brandis: We will take that on notice.

Senator KITCHING: Thank you. May I have the document back. Could I also then draw your attention to 1 July to 31 December 2015. This is in relation to the Melbourne Cup. On 28 October 2015 to 3 November—

Senator Brandis: May I have the document back, please.

Senator KITCHING: I am just reading it first.

Senator Brandis: What is the date you are referring me to, please?

Senator KITCHING: This is 28 October 2015.

Senator Brandis: Let me have a look. Just pause there.

Senator KITCHING: That is not this document. This is another one. This is November—

Senator Brandis: If you are going to ask me a question about a document—

Senator KITCHING: What I said, Senator Brandis, was that you can have the document after I finish referring to the relevant passage. Not all of it is relevant. I do not want to waste the committee's time.

Senator Brandis: Well, you are doing so, Senator. Why don't you give me the document and ask me the question you want to ask me about it?

Senator KITCHING: Because I have one copy. I am going to give it to you after I refer to the document.

Senator Brandis: So you are reading from the relevant passage?

Senator KITCHING: I am. '28 October 2015 to 3 November 2015, Melbourne, Minister—Official Business.' Why I want to read that is you will note that that was when the Melbourne Cup was on. In fact, I think the Minister may have also attended Derby Day.

Senator Brandis: May I see the document, please?

Senator KITCHING: Most certainly. You will also note—

Senator Brandis: Senator Kitching—

Senator KITCHING: I will need the document back—

Senator Brandis: I am not going to allow you to get away with abusing the process of the committee. If you have a question about—

Senator KITCHING: Chair, that is not appropriate. We have already been through this.

Senator Brandis: If you have a question about the document—

CHAIR: Allow me to adjudicate in this case, if I may, please.

Senator KITCHING: Just so that I am clear, this process is to elicit a certain amount of transparency and accountability. That is what I am seeking to do.

CHAIR: Certainly. I am not—

Senator KITCHING: What I am saying is that the response to the QONs is not adequate.

CHAIR: Please do not speak over me. You are within your right to ask the Attorney-General for a response. He is within his right, since there are no copies, to seek to look at the document to which you refer. What I will rule is that, upon each document that you refer to, there will then be a pause, in the absence of a copy, for the Attorney-General to examine it. I will then invite you, if you have a further document, to refer to it. One at a time each time.

Senator MOORE: Excuse me, Chair. I have a suggestion. In terms of the process, there seems to be some trouble with actually looking at the document at the same time. May I suggest that we actually move on to another issue and then come back after the break with copies of the document so that people can look at it at the same time.

Senator Brandis: That is probably a good idea.

Senator KITCHING: May I have all of my documents back.

Senator Brandis: You have asked me a question about a particular entry. You put this on the public record, and I am not going to allow it to go without it being responded to on the public record.

CHAIR: Sure. At the conclusion of this one, I will accept Senator Moore's very wise advice. After you have responded to this one, Attorney-General, I will invite Senator Kitching to provide the secretariat with any further documents so that copies can be made and we can come back to it after morning tea.

Senator Brandis: Senator Kitching, may I take it that the entry in the document to which you are referring is the entry highlighted in pink and only that?

Senator KITCHING: Yes.

Senator Brandis: What that entry shows is that, between 1 November 2014 and 4 November 2014, the minister was in Melbourne on official business. You said that it referred to the Melbourne Cup. There is no reference to the Melbourne Cup. That was a lie, Senator Kitching.

Senator KITCHING: No, it was not—

Senator Brandis: You said the document referred to the Melbourne Cup. That was lie, Senator Kitching.

Senator KITCHING: I am sorry—Chair—

Senator Brandis: Nevertheless, I will enquire of the minister—

Senator KITCHING: I am going to raise a point of order. So you can stop—

Senator Brandis: what was her official business in Melbourne—

CHAIR: Senator Brandis—

Senator KITCHING: Under common law meeting procedure other than the standing orders, you can stop while I ask. He may not refer to me that way.

CHAIR: Basically, what the Attorney-General—

Senator KITCHING: What I am saying—

CHAIR: Allow me to—

Senator Brandis: You said the document referred to Ms Bishop being at the Melbourne Cup. It says no such thing.

Senator KITCHING: Yes—

Senator Brandis: It discloses that, between a range of four dates, she was in Melbourne conducting official business. I will take on notice—

Senator KITCHING: Why don't you look at the QON from the department.

Senator Brandis: I will take on notice the question: what was the official business being conducted in Melbourne by Ms Bishop between 1 and 4 November.

CHAIR: That is 2015.

Senator Brandis: 2014—

Senator GALLACHER: A point of order, Chair: I would ask that you request the honourable Attorney-General to withdraw the imputation of lying. Senator Kitching is working off paperwork that she believes is entirely accurate. In accordance with the standing orders and instructions of the President, allegations of lying across the chamber or to individual senators or members is disorderly.

CHAIR: It will assist the committee, Attorney-General, if—

Senator Brandis: I will withdraw if it assists the committee. I would just point out that what Senator Kitching said the document contains it does not contain.

CHAIR: Correct.

Senator KITCHING: Chair, just so that we are clear, I am only working on documents provided to me by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and the Department of Finance. So, if Senator Brandis is imputing either of those organisations—

Senator Brandis: No, I am not, and you know I am not.

Senator KITCHING: he should actually be very careful. These are public documents. Thank you.

Senator Brandis: I am actually imputing you because you have now for the second time in the last 20 minutes—

Senator KITCHING: Thank you. You have withdrawn.

Senator Brandis: described a document—

Senator KITCHING: I have not misdescribed it.

Senator Brandis: You have asserted a document contains material which in fact it does not.

Senator KITCHING: I have read it out to you and you have—

CHAIR: Colleagues, we have a mechanism—

Senator Brandis: In any event, you asked what was the official business of the foreign minister between 1 and 4 November 2014, and we will take it on notice.

Senator KITCHING: You may not like the discrepancy, Senator Brandis, but they are not misdescribed. I have merely read out exactly what is on the page that is from the Department of Finance—

Senator Brandis: I am sorry, Senator Kitching—my eyes deceive me. I cannot see reference to the Melbourne Cup.

Senator KITCHING: and I had to do that because we received inadequate responses to the questions.

CHAIR: Okay. I have allowed this to go on long enough. I have now directed that there will be the opportunity for documents to be copied.

Senator KITCHING: Chair, may I have all of my documents back.

CHAIR: Of course.

Senator FAWCETT: Secretary, this committee a few years ago went to Vanuatu as part of a delegation looking at some of our work in the Pacific region. One of the highlights of the work there was an MoU between DFAT and Carnival Cruise Lines in terms of business contributing to our programs in those areas. I am just wondering if you could give us an update on where that MoU is at and the outcomes that have been achieved, particularly in light of rebuilding in Vanuatu after the devastating natural disasters there.

Mr Sloper : I think there are a few issues that you have raised. Just on the Carnival MOU, that has been a very good example of how we have engaged the private sector to lift development and economic growth in the region. It is one of a number we have with private sector firms from Australia. In this case, Carnival has an expanding cruise industry across the Pacific. We, with local communities and partner governments in the region, have worked to supply Carnival with some staff for their ships as they take passengers from around the world through the region. That may be in most cases I think what we would describe as hotel staff—staff providing those sorts of services onboard. In addition to that with Carnival, we and they in particular have worked with some local communities to improve the facilities in support of visitors coming through, and they have also taken onboard a range of handicrafts, particularly from Vanuatu, that they are now selling to their passengers. So it is an example where we have had a little bit of involvement, if you like, and become a facilitator to what is really a commercial endeavour, and it seems to be delivering outcomes for both Vanuatu in this case and also Carnival Cruise Lines. Given the expansion of interest in cruising in the Pacific, they are now engaged—that is, Carnival Cruise Lines—with a range of other governments across the region in a similar way to expand both their own commercial offerings to passengers and to see where they can dovetail that with local communities, particularly in Polynesia at the moment but also elsewhere—say, for example, the coast of Papua New Guinea. That is one example of our broader engagement with the private sector in the Pacific.

We have a number of development programs. We are looking to leverage financing, if you like, into particular commercial ventures. One particular one is a social impact investment venture, where we have worked with a number of companies in Australia to identify opportunities for investment in the Pacific. Often these are very small companies—small and medium enterprises—that may not always have the credentials for immediate investment. But, with a bit of work and a small level of investment from the Australian government, they are then able to be, if you like, bankable and attractive to a broader set of investors. So there is now a fund set up in Australia, and through that fund or through commercial funds we can invest into these small-scale companies and deliver social impact as well as commercial impact. I can provide more detail on those figures if you would like.

Senator FAWCETT: Who manages the fund?

Mr Sloper : They are managed externally—they are not managed by DFAT. It is a commercial operation. We are just leveraging it, if you like, or facilitating it. I can provide data on the ratios if you like. But, in some small cases, we ran a pilot for two different projects. I cannot remember the exact ratio, but I think it was about 1:5 ratio. So there is quite a lot of commercial interest in investment in the region.

Senator FAWCETT: When you say 'facilitating', is that in terms of connecting and coordinating or is DFAT contributing, if you like, seed funding to that as well?

Mr Sloper : It is—our funding is for the third party to facilitate it. We do not actually get into the commercial transactions. Our involvement is going to market and identifying the company that can provide this service. They then go out and identify individual commercial opportunities in the Pacific, talk to local communities that might benefit from that and work on issues such as accounting and so on so they can present what would be an investable option. If that is the case, that then gets referred through to a commercial entity which manages the fund, just in the same way that we have investment funds elsewhere in our market here. They make their own judgements on the profits that might arise from that and then go looking for those investments.

Mr McDonald : That sort of adds a little bit to the shared value discussion we had I think it was last night and the focus we have on that with the link to the Sustainable Development Goals. So going forward there is an opportunity for business, but there is equally an opportunity to have a development impact in that, so how can we work together in partnership to get a much better outcome. I think this is really starting to progress now. Not only are we focused on it but also, as I said last night, other donors are as well. So it is the area that we are all having a very close look at.

Senator FAWCETT: Sure. My interest, I guess, goes partly to the fact that, when we were in Vanuatu, there was a real appreciation of the fact that DFAT were supporting some of the training elements so that people actually got not just employment opportunity but also a qualification. So, with the MoU and the expectations of the private sector, is it to see the Ni-Vanuatu actually come out of these engagements with a qualification so that, beyond the short-term nature of that immediate contract, there is sustainable path then?

Mr Sloper : Absolutely. We are looking for sustainable development outcomes. In this regard, we do not give a formal commitment to provide staff at a particular level. That is a relationship between Carnival and employer groups or suppliers. What we are doing, though, through parallel investments, is supporting the Australia-Pacific Technical Colleges across the region—their TVET colleges. We are looking again at the outcomes that graduates achieve through those colleges. Most have achieved employment—not always in the sector in which they have trained. So we are talking more closely with business across the region now about the demands and the future demands that might arise in their sectors to more closely match, if you like, the skills and qualifications coming out of graduates from those colleges and how they match up. In Carnival's case, I think they also do onboard training, if you like, for their own staff. But there have been some gaps and we have been trying to address that.

Senator FAWCETT: While you are at the table, can I move to Fiji. I was there last year with the UN working with their new parliament. The strong sense I got was that they were looking forward to increasing links with Australia after a period of isolation. I am just wondering if you can talk about where we have come since that mid-2000 period where Australia did appear to withdraw from the relationship with Fiji after the coup. Could you talk about initiatives that we are taking now to build on the relationship with Fiji?

Mr Sloper : I think it is fair to say that there has been substantial progress in strengthening our relations with Fiji following elections in September 2014. This can be seen in government-to-government ministerial interactions, interactions such as your own, parliamentary connections and then in the commercial sphere as well. Last year, for example, on a visit to Australia at the time, Fiji's Prime Minister said that they have definitely embarked on a new era in relations with Australia. That is a welcome comment given some of the issues you have flagged that have occurred in the past. But there is now very regular ministerial contact. In fact, I think it was only at the beginning of last month—at the beginning of May—that we saw the Prime Minister meet with Prime Minister Bainimarama during an informal visit to Australia, and the foreign minister also had the opportunity to meet with him. There is an important trade and investment relationship too. Australia is one of Fiji's largest trade and investment partners. I think two-way goods and services trade now, or at least in 2015-16, was $1.84 billion. In terms of the people-to-people links, under the New Colombo Plan we have about 370 Australian undergraduate students who have had the opportunity to study and work in Fiji since 2000. Sixty-six Australia Awards will be offered to Fijian students this year, and 272 Fijians have participated in the Seasonal Worker Programme. We expect those numbers will grow as we go forward. Also, 58 Australian Volunteers for International Development are undertaking placements in Fiji through 2016-17. So there is extensive people-to-people contact, and I think we are seeing that burgeoning. And, of course, there is a tourism industry in Fiji which attracts many Australians, particularly families.

Senator FAWCETT: At a more formal or structured level, particularly given the recent weather events that have impacted on Fiji, what is our engagement in terms of disaster preparation and resilience and those kinds of areas with Fiji?

Mr Sloper : I may make some general comments, and I have some colleagues who may want to join me on the broader Pacific-wide resilience programs we do. But certainly following on from the experience both with Cyclone Winston and previously with Cyclone Pam in Vanuatu there is a number of initiatives across the region to build resilience. Our Prime Minister announced at the Pacific Islands Forum last year that Australia would lift its commitment in terms of action both in response to climate change and extreme weather and to build resilience. That includes secondments from staff, or I should say ACC deployments—Australian Civilian Corps deployments—into the national disaster management offices, improved coordination and also support for humanitarian suppliers across the region. That has also worked in Fiji. We still have some funds outstanding from our commitment to assist in the reconstruction and recovery effort from tropical Cyclone Winston. We are working closely with the Fiji government on that now. In each case, I have to say we work closely with local governments to ensure that we are meeting their identified priorities. So, for example, in Fiji's case, one of the areas we are working on is actually the reconstruction of schools.

CHAIR: I will get you to pause there if I can, Mr Sloper and Senator Fawcett.

Senator HINCH: I just want to follow up quickly on the questions yesterday about people being coached for estimates committee hearings. I mentioned the defence department spending $2 million on it, and your department, DFAT, spent $28,000 this year. I asked for a show of hands, and I was surprised to see your hand go up, Secretary Anderson. You would not have seen the veritable forest of hands go up behind you. My question is for Senator Brandis. At the end of the questions, Senator Brandis, you said, fairly boastfully, that you had not had or needed any estimates training.

Senator Brandis: No, I did not say that I did not need it; I said I had not had it. I said, joshing, that I had not had it.

Senator HINCH: That you had not had any? Last night on Paul Murray LIVE, I recounted the story to Peta Credlin and she said that actually you had—you had had it from her and she had given it to you for free.

CHAIR: Self-praise is faint praise indeed, Senator Hinch.

Senator Brandis: Obviously, you were referring to commercial training. In relation to Ms Credlin, with whom I had a great deal to do when she was chief of staff of the Leader of the Opposition and then the former prime minister, Ms Credlin made many helpful suggestions to me, as she did to many of my colleagues.

Senator HINCH: So was that classed as estimates training?

Senator Brandis: I did not understand it to be, but I cannot eliminate the possibility that, over the many years in which I worked closely with Ms Credlin, she may have made helpful suggestions to me about estimates.

Senator HINCH: Thank you, Chair. I will segue back to you for morning tea.

CHAIR: Probably without fee, I would think, Senator Hinch. That is a good spot to stop for morning tea.

Proceedings suspended from 10:30 to 10 : 45

CHAIR: We will resume.

Senator XENOPHON: I do have some more questions on witness K, but I note that the Attorney is not here.

CHAIR: He is here.

Senator XENOPHON: He is here. These glasses are not working. I am sorry, Attorney—I did not see you. You had advisers in front of you and I did not know that you were here. I did not see you.

Senator Brandis: You did not see me when?

Senator XENOPHON: Just now.

Senator Brandis: Well, here I am.

Senator XENOPHON: Yes—it is a beautiful thing. Can I just go to the issue of witness K. It is not in dispute that ASIS is a competent authority relied upon by the foreign minister in relation to the refusal to allow witness K's passport. But I refer the Attorney to the Intelligence Services Act, where section 6 makes it clear that ASIS is not permitted to collect information in respect of people inside Australian territory—in section 6(1)(a). I am trying to understand this. If the agency cannot collect information on people inside Australia, it cannot lawfully have information on witness K. Would a more appropriate competent authority in those circumstances be either ASIO or the AFP to determine whether witness K should have his passport taken away from him or not?

Senator Brandis: That is again—all of these questions about witness K, for reasons that you are familiar with and reasons you are not familiar with that I am not at liberty to reveal, are best taken on notice, so that is what I will do.

Senator XENOPHON: Attorney, I have a letter here addressed from Mr Duncan Lewis, the director-general of ASIO, dated 4 September 2015 addressed to Bernard Collaery, the lawyer for witness K. Mr Lewis says, 'ASIO has not taken action in respect of your client's current passport application' and it advised the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, including on 21 July 2015, that it did not intend to do so; 'I have forward your letter to that department'. So in other words ASIO had no issue with witness K having a passport.

Senator Brandis: Again, you are asking me about a letter that I am not familiar with. Given the sensitivity—

Senator XENOPHON: Would you like me to table the letter? Would that be helpful to you?

Senator Brandis: I have no objection to you tabling it, but the point I make to you is that, given the sensitivity of this matter, I am going to consider your questions carefully, and these are not the sorts of questions that it is appropriate for me to respond to in a session like this without carefully considering the matter.

Senator XENOPHON: It is my understanding that there are many in the intelligence community who are very disturbed about the treatment that witness K has been given.

Senator Brandis: That may be your understanding—it is not mine, actually. But then that begs the question: what do we mean by the 'treatment' of witness K?

Senator XENOPHON: Having his passport taken away and continued—he still cannot get his passport back.

Senator Brandis: I have a lot to do with the national security community and I have never heard that suggestion.

Senator XENOPHON: Can I ask this more general question. In terms of the usual competent authorities providing advice to the foreign minister on matters of national security with respect to the issue of passports, they would be ASIO, the AFP and ASIS—is that right?

Senator Brandis: I think there is a scheduled list of competent—

Senator XENOPHON: Yes.

Senator Brandis: You are asking me a question about the Australian Passports Act, which is not, by the way, an act I administer. My understanding is that there is a scheduled list of competent authorities, and it is not limited to those agencies, by the way. For example, I think state and territory police may be competent authorities.

Senator XENOPHON: Sure. Can I ask you on notice then for the number of cases, without in any way identifying them, in terms of competent authorities in respect of the Australian Passports Act, in which authorities have been involved—whether it was state police, territory police, the AFP, ASIO or ASIS. I am trying to understand how many cases ASIS has been involved in with respect to this part of the Australian Passports Act.

Senator Brandis: I will take it on notice. Obviously, I do not know the answer. It may be that there are security reasons why that cannot be revealed. I just do not know. So I will need to take—one of the reasons I want to take the question on notice is to take some advice about that.

Senator XENOPHON: You are here representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs. The litigation of the matter before the International Court of Arbitration has ceased in respect of East Timor and the Commonwealth. It is now going to a conciliation. Given that has occurred, on notice can I ask whether the foreign minister is willing to reconsider her decision in relation to the witness K passport.

Senator Brandis: I will take that question on notice.

Senator XENOPHON: I just want to go to another issue, Ms Adamson. I want to ask some questions in relation to human resources management issues within the department. I will be careful in terms of—I am not going to name names in respect of this, but I do want to talk about some general processes and some information I regarded as quite disturbing. The department's policy on workplace bullying—is that something that is clear and enunciated in the course of the department's website?

Ms Mansfield : Senator, there is I think no room for doubt that the department has a very clear policy on our approach against any form of bullying and harassment. The secretary has made it absolutely clear from day one in the department, and her predecessor likewise. I can say that we have strengthened our processes and we have strengthened the area within the department that provides advice to help where there may be cases and to help to advise on how to prevent it.

Senator XENOPHON: On notice if you could just—I presume that the workplace bullying policy is on the website.

Ms Mansfield : It will be on our intranet.

Senator XENOPHON: Can you provide—I will have more questions to ask about this today. Would that be something that can be provided to me in the course of these estimates?

Ms Mansfield : We do not typically provide our internal policy documents, but let me have a think about that and get back to you.

Senator XENOPHON: It is relevant—

Ms Adamson : I am sure we can give you what it is that you are looking for, because it is absolutely consistent with broad Australian Public Service guidance.

Senator XENOPHON: Therefore, there ought not to be a difficulty in providing details of the workplace bullying policy, which presumably is on the intranet and available—

Ms Adamson : That is what I said, Senator. We can provide that.

Senator XENOPHON: You can provide that?

Ms Adamson : Yes.

Senator XENOPHON: I am sorry—I am still a bit deaf from that Elvis Costello concert I went to in the 1970s.

CHAIR: Before you proceed, Senator Xenophon—

Senator XENOPHON: How does your department deal—

CHAIR: Excuse me, Senator Xenophon—one second. Senator Moore has asked if that can be made available to the committee.

Senator XENOPHON: That would be preferable—thank you.

Ms Adamson : Certainly.

Senator XENOPHON: That will presumably tell us about how complaints related to workplace bullying are dealt with. How does the department, in practical terms, decide if a complaint is with or without foundation—in other words, which complaints are investigated and which are ignored?

Ms Mansfield : As you would appreciate, often there is a comment that might be made or there is a query that arises. Sometimes there is something that can be dealt with without it having to become a formal process. There is a spectrum of the nature of concerns and the nature of complaints. But, if someone wishes to make a formal complaint, there is a clear process on how to do that. That is usually done in writing by an email to the Conduct and Ethics Unit or it may be done directly to their supervisor and then there are processes that flow on.

Senator XENOPHON: Will these documents be available—in terms of the documents you are supplying to the committee, will that be reasonably clear in the documents you will be providing to us in the course of today?

Ms Mansfield : Yes, it will.

Senator XENOPHON: That is good. I will flag some other questions, because there is a matter that has been brought to my attention that does concern me. As I understand it, obviously the APS Code of Conduct is something that the department ascribes priority to in terms of impartiality, being committed to service, accountability, and being respectful and ethical. There is no question—

Ms Adamson : Absolutely, Senator.

Senator XENOPHON: about that being a bedrock of how the department operates and the department ascribes equal priority to all parts of the APS Code of Conduct and all APS Values. I have had a complaint about a failure of the department to respond to the complaints made by two members of its staff working with the department's Access Examination and Coordination Section. I do not want to do anything to identify them or to give their names—one a permanent officer and the other a contractor. They have made complaints about false allegations made by a senior officer which they say besmirched their professional reputations, causing the dismissal of the contractor and the resignation of the permanent officer, both quite senior people. I am just concerned that there has been a—my understanding is that the department has failed to interview either officer to follow up their complaints. If that is the case, that would cause me some great concern.

Ms Mansfield : I would not want to comment on a particular case, but what I can say is that we have very clear processes in place that take full account of natural justice as well in terms of all of the parties to the complaints. I am happy to look into the details of a particular case—

Senator XENOPHON: Perhaps we could put it in these terms. Given what you have said about natural justice—and I accept fully the seriousness that the department ascribes to the APS Code of Conduct—these two individuals say that they have been through a pretty traumatic period. My understanding is that they are both quite senior in terms of their experience. I do not want to describe what their experience is, because that will tend to identify them. But they say that they have complained about how they have been treated but they are yet to be interviewed by the department in relation to their complaints about the way they have been treated. As a matter of course, though, if it is a matter that relates to serious issues of conduct or complaints of bullying or harassment, you would have an interview as a matter of course, would you not? As a general rule, that would fulfil the principles of natural justice that you would interview those people?

Ms Mansfield : That is correct.

Senator XENOPHON: And if those people had in fact not been interviewed in the scenario that I have set to you, as a general principle you would be concerned about that?

Ms Mansfield : Yes, although I would say that each set of circumstances does vary from case to case. Again, without the detail, I would be surprised if they had not had a chance to put their point of view.

Ms Adamson : Senator, I think I am familiar with the case to which you refer. In fact, I have personally spoken to one of the parties I think you are referring to, but it is always better to be—

Senator XENOPHON: I am being careful not to try to—

Ms Adamson : I know you are. I think it is probably always—it may be better to take this offline, as it were. But, if it is the case I think you are referring to, it has been twice investigated and, as I said, I spoke, out of respect for one of the people you refer to, who does indeed have a great deal of experience. There are processes, as Ms Mansfield has explained, when a complaint gets to a formal stage. My own experience, though, is that often in these breakdowns in professional relationships the views of each party or parties on each side are often very different and it can be quite difficult after the event to work out what in fact has happened.

Senator XENOPHON: Rather than—I am being wound up by the very cruel Chair. Perhaps I could do this—

Senator Brandis: The very what Chair?

Senator XENOPHON: He is very cruel.

CHAIR: You have cut me to the quick.

Senator XENOPHON: Not crestfallen but cruel. I think in the circumstances, if I have the permission of the parties involved to discuss this matter with you in the department, it might be useful to go offline in respect of this and see whether that might be a more satisfactory way of getting answers to these issues.

Ms Adamson : All right, Senator. But can I just finally assure the committee of the department's and my complete commitment, obviously, to dealing with bullying and running a department where any instances of bullying—and I hope they would be very rare—are properly and appropriately dealt with.

Senator XENOPHON: If I have the permission of parties that have complained to engage with you and the department, I take it you would accept that invitation?

Ms Adamson : Yes, we would.

Senator LEYONHJELM: I have some quite brief questions in relation to foreign aid, but I think the secretary can address them. I have a copy of table 4.1 from the 2013-14 budget papers, the last of the prior Labor government, in which it shows projected foreign aid—official development assistance—at $6.7 billion. In this year's budget it shows, for 2016-17, foreign aid at $4.3 billion. I am not complaining about the reduction in foreign aid. My view is that humanitarian aid is useful but other aid is not very useful. My question to the secretary is: that is a fairly significant reduction in overall ODA. I am just wondering whether or not there has been any corresponding reduction in departmental overheads associated with that.

Ms Adamson : Yes. There has been and those overheads can be thought of in a number of ways. But I will ask the chief finance officer to deal with it in the sort of detail that I expect you are looking for.

Senator GALLACHER: Defence actually give a staff ceiling of 18,200. Does foreign affairs have the same?

Ms Adamson : We have a FTE cap and we can tell you where we are in relation to that.

Mr Wood : Firstly, in relation to your question about reductions in the administrative overhead. At the time of the integration of the then Australian Agency for International Development, AusAID, into DFAT, the government announced two significant savings measures. In total the aid budget has reduced by around $11 billion since the 2013 election. In the budget immediately following the integration, the government announced a savings measure of $397.2 million over four years. In the first year it was $109.7 million. That was effectively taken from our administrative overhead—it was our departmental operating budget. So there was a fairly significant reduction in the running costs of the combined entity post the integration, which reflected the lower trajectory and the smaller aid budget. That led to significant reductions in staffing levels. At previous estimates, the then secretary referred to figures in the range of 500 staff that that led to reductions in.

Mr McDonald : Just for accuracy, the figure for the aid budget this year is $3.828 billion.

Senator LEYONHJELM: Okay, I am looking at table 4.1, so you must have added some numbers there. Anyway, it does not matter. What I am looking for is the big picture on this. You said 'significant reductions'. The decline in the figure from the 2013-14 budget to the 2016-17 budget is about 35 per cent. Would significant equate to that level of reduction in administrative overheads and headcounts?

Mr Wood : Certainly in terms of the budget. Before integration, the then AusAID had an operating budget of around $350 million. Post integration there was about $250 million assigned to the management of the aid budget. So there was a fairly significant reduction that led to that saving of $397.2 million over four years.

Senator LEYONHJELM: Thank you.

Senator SINGH: Who recommended the appointment of tourism ambassador Chris Hemsworth? Did it come from the department or form the ministers?

Ms Adamson : I think that question is properly directed to Tourism Australia rather than to the department.

Senator SINGH: But isn't his position funded out of the department?

Ms Adamson : Not to my knowledge.

CHAIR: Tourism Australia will be here this evening, so you might want to delay that question.

Senator SINGH: Okay.

Ms Adamson : While Senator Singh has the floor, she asked some questions yesterday on Myanmar, which Mr Green is very happy to reply to now, if that is acceptable to the committee.

CHAIR: Does that suit you, Senator?

Senator SINGH: Yes, it would.

Mr Green : I was asked by Senator Singh yesterday whether the minister or the department discussed with the UN’s Special Rapporteur on Myanmar the Australian decision to co-sponsor the United Nations Human Rights Council resolution of a fact finding mission before making the decision to do so. I said yesterday that neither the department or the minister had any such discussion. I undertook to check whether our overseas missions had such a discussion. The short answer is no. Our staff in Geneva did make a statement at the interactive dialogue with the special rapporteur on 13 March in the human rights council plenary. Staff also attended side events during the Human Rights Council where the special rapporteur was present, at some of which she spoke. But they did not engage with her directly. Our ambassador in Yangon has met with the special rapporteur on a number of occasions, but did not in the period we are focusing on here—essentially 1 March—when she presented her report recommending a commission of inquiry to the point of our co-sponsorship of the resolution.

I was also asked by Senator Singh about the progress of the Myanmar government Rakhine state investigation commission. Having checked with our mission in Yangon overnight, I can confirm that very little is known publicly about its progress. Our mission in Yangon understands that a report has been drafted but it is under review. Our mission is not aware of a date for the final report's release.

Senator SINGH: Okay. While you are here, Mr Green, I would like to follow-up on that. Can you confirm whether the Australian government tried to water down the call for an international investigation in any way?

Mr Green : No.

Senator SINGH: I will wait until this evening for the tourism ambassador questions. In relation to question on notice No. 43 that related to Kevin Andrews's travel in the US, we asked whether DFAT had any involvement in facilitating Mr Andrews's attendance at the 64th annual national prayer breakfast and at the Heritage Foundation, where he delivered a speech. The department has answered:

The Embassy of Australia to the United States in Washington played no role in issuing or responding to the breakfast invitation.

And—

The Embassy of Australia to the United States in Washington did not support Mr Andrews’s trip to the USA and/or breakfast attendance.

Do you consider it unusual that the department did not provide any support whatsoever to Mr Andrews?

Ms Adamson : No, I do not.

Senator SINGH: So there aren't other instances where support would be provided for something similar to that?

Ms Adamson : Experience varies widely at overseas posts, but at very large posts like Washington, London and others where members of parliament are regularly visiting and are involved in a wide range of programs, it would not be at all unusual for these things to happen either with or without the knowledge or support of the embassy.

Senator SINGH: Senator Kitching also asked if there was a fee to attend the breakfast. I did not see anything in the response to that inquiry on the fee.

Ms Adamson : The response says that the embassy does not know whether there was a fee to attend the breakfast. They would not normally know that.

Senator SINGH: Because there was no assistance provided.

Ms Adamson : No.

Senator SINGH: Okay. Thank you.

Senator KITCHING: I think the secretariat now has copies of the documents which we were referring to before. What I want to ask—

Senator Brandis: Before you do, Senator, I took some questions on notice before the morning tea break, and in the course of the morning tea break I have been able to determine the answers to some of the questions you asked. But, obviously, in the short time that has been available I have not been able to discover all of the information that I have sought. You asked me, immediately before the morning tea break: 'What was the official business in Melbourne that the minister conducted between 1-4 November, 2014?'

In the limited time available, I have established some of the official business that the minister conducted. This is by no means an exhaustive list. On Saturday, 1 November, the minister returned to Melbourne from Fiji, where she had been representing Australia in her capacity as foreign minister at meetings with the Fijian government. Over the next three days, among other things, she had a meeting with the Lowy Institute. She had a meeting in Melbourne with the Director-General of ASIS. She had a meeting in Melbourne with me and with the then Minister of Defence, former Senator Johnston, in which we discussed national security matters. She had a cabinet meeting in Melbourne. She had a meeting of the National Security Committee of Cabinet in Melbourne and she addressed, at the Melbourne Town Hall, the Australian Fair Trade Association new markets meeting. There were other official engagements as well. But, in particular and most importantly, the minister flew to Melbourne from overseas to attend meetings of Cabinet and the NSC that were scheduled on those days.

Senator KITCHING: Thank you, Senator Brandis. The travel that I have here—and I am looking at page 15 of 42, and the top of the page is 1 July to 31 December 2014—is 30 October 2014, Canberra to Sydney. And then there is a gap. Then 5 November is the next entered travel log, which is Melbourne back to her home town of Perth. But did you say that she was travelling from Fiji into Melbourne?

Senator Brandis: Yes.

Senator KITCHING: Is that not noted there for a reason?

Senator Brandis: I do not know.

Senator KITCHING: Could I ask you to take that on notice?

Senator Brandis: I am sorry, I have been reminded by the secretary. I have made the same mistake that you have made, Senator, although you have had a longer opportunity to study these documents than I have. If you look at the top of the document, you will see that the table lists domestic scheduled fairs. Now, Senator Kitching, Fiji is a foreign country and when one travels from Fiji to Melbourne, that is not a domestic scheduled fare.

Senator KITCHING: I understand that, Senator Brandis. What I am asking for is the explanation. Did she come Fiji to Melbourne? She has gone 30 October 2014, Canberra to Sydney. She has at some point then flown to Fiji and then back into Melbourne; is that correct?

Senator Brandis: I do not know.

Senator KITCHING: Could we then take that on notice—

Senator Brandis: I do not know what the question is.

Senator KITCHING: The question is, why do the travel records not demonstrate—because it says Canberra to Sydney—that either she has gone between 30 October—

Senator Brandis: Senator, this is a stream of consciousness. We want a question, please.

Senator KITCHING: The question is, if you are saying, as you have just asserted, that she has flown from Fiji—

Senator Brandis: I have just told you. Are you doubting what I am saying?

Senator KITCHING: to Melbourne, then I would like to know why on 30 October 2014 it was Canberra to Sydney. I accept that maybe she flew Sydney to Fiji and—

Senator Brandis: Perhaps she did, Senator.

Senator KITCHING: somewhere else and then in, but I would like to know. Thank you.

Senator Brandis: You are not Sherlock Holmes; are you?

Senator KITCHING: Thank you.

Senator Brandis: So you would like to know whether Ms Bishop flew from Sydney to Fiji on or about 30 October; is that right?

Senator KITCHING: That is correct.

Senator Brandis: Okay. I will take that on notice.

Senator KITCHING: Have you been able to ascertain in the break, if that was 2014, you also have 2015 there?

Senator Brandis: In the time available, which was 15 minutes, I was only able to make an inquiry—

Senator KITCHING: So you will take it on notice.

Senator Brandis: But I have already taken them on notice.

Senator KITCHING: Lovely. Thank you.

Senator Brandis: I suspect the insinuation that underlie your question for 2015 and 2016 is as preposterous and incorrect as your insinuation about 2014.

Senator KITCHING: What I would also like to know is the official business in 2015 that the minister herself told the Department of Finance.

Senator Brandis: We have already taken that question on notice, Senator.

Senator KITCHING: Good. Also, what was the official business on 8 January 2016 in Portsea?

Senator Brandis: We have already taken that question on notice, Senator.

Senator KITCHING: I am just making sure.

Senator Brandis: There is no need to ask the same question several times. The question has been taken on notice. I can give you an answer in relation to the question about 30 October.

Senator KITCHING: Which year?

Senator Brandis: 2014. The only 30 October date for which you asked me, which was in 2014.

Senator KITCHING: Thank you.

Senator Brandis: The minister flew from Sydney to Auckland and from Auckland to Fiji, had meetings in Fiji and flew from Fiji to Melbourne to attend Cabinet, NSC and other official business.

Senator KITCHING: Thank you. When we asked about the official business or whether there was official business—

Senator Brandis: You now know that it was official business because I have just told you that it was.

Senator KITCHING: Sorry, this is in the additional estimates, so the questions on notice that came from those estimates. We were told:

This is a question for the foreign minister as she has discretion over events that she attends.

If there was official business, why did the department not provide that as an answer or, indeed, why did it not provide some detail, as you have just been able to do, Senator Brandis?

Senator Brandis: So you are asking why the department answered a question in a particular way.

Senator KITCHING: I am asking, if there was official business—as the foreign minister herself told the Department of Finance—why was that not reflected in the responses to the questions on notice from the additional estimates period in March of this year?

Senator Brandis: You don't say, do you, that there is a discrepancy? You merely say that the question was answered in a different but not inconsistent way.

Senator KITCHING: No. Let me read to you.

Senator Brandis: We have to watch you, Senator. You are a person referred to the police by a royal commission for perjury.

Senator KITCHING: We have been through this. We went through this—

Senator Brandis: I do not accept on face value anything you tell me.

Senator KITCHING: If you want to get into that, Senator Brandis, you gave, without tender, to your old law firm—

CHAIR: Excuse me! Senator Kitching and Attorney-General! I will turn your microphones off. I will not allow either of you to speak over the chair. The Attorney-General has said that he will take questions on notice which he is not able to answer at the moment. Those are questions that were canvassed before morning tea. I invite you to ask any further questions in addition to those that he has already taken on notice or now provided more recent information on so we can move on. There is a lot of business to be attended to.

Senator Brandis: What I am being asked now is why the department answered a question in a particular way. Is that the question you are asking?

Senator KITCHING: If it is official business, the department, I am assume, must keep a record of the official business of the foreign minister. Why was—

Senator Brandis: Let me stop you there. No, before you—

Senator KITCHING: that information not given.

CHAIR: Again! Colleagues, please. Senator Kitching. The Attorney-General asked for a clarification. You have given him that clarification. Attorney, will you respond and then we can move on.

Senator Brandis: The premise on which this question is based, like many others, if I may say so, is a false premise. The department does not routinely keep a record of all of the minister's official business.

CHAIR: Thank you. Senator Moore, did you have a comment or a question in relation to the same thing?

Senator MOORE: I actually wanted to request a very short private meeting. It will be very short.

CHAIR: We will suspend for a few moments. Please all remain in the room.

Proceedings suspended from 11:21 to 11.22

CHAIR: We are in resumption. Attorney, there has been a request that you withdraw the inference made about Senator Kitching. I invite you to withdraw that so that we can proceed in a constructive way. Would you be kind enough to withdraw that assertion?

Senator Brandis: Well, if you are instructing me to, then of course I will.

CHAIR: I am requesting you to.

Senator Brandis: If I may put a bit of context around this, please. This is an attempt to smear one of Australia’s most respected figures, coming from a person who has been found guilty of perjury by a royal commission.

Senator KITCHING: No, it is not—

Senator Brandis: I think it is relevant to put that on the record.

CHAIR: Senator Brandis, again, can I ask you to withdraw that particular assertion. And can we confine ourselves to the subject matter, which is the interrogation of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

Senator Brandis: If you want me to, I will withdraw. But the report of the Heydon royal commission speaks for itself.

Senator KITCHING: Exactly. And if you had read the—

CHAIR: Senator Kitching—

Senator KITCHING: report you would know what you are saying simply is not—

CHAIR: Senator Kitching, would you respect the chair, please, as I have asked the Attorney-General to do.

Senator KITCHING: Can I ask a further question?

CHAIR: Before you do so, again, can I ask all members and witnesses of this committee to respect public and other figures in relation to the questions asked and the answers given? Please proceed Senator Kitching and be aware of the request I have made.

Senator KITCHING: Of the meetings that you have just listed, Senator Brandis, that the foreign minister attended in the relevant period of 2014, how many of those were on 4 November 2014?

Senator Brandis: I will take that questions on notice.

Senator KITCHING: In relation to the Melbourne Cup, the relevant period in the documents of 2015, how many of the meetings that the foreign minister had were on 3 November 2015?

Senator Brandis: I will take that questions on notice.

Senator KITCHING: In relation to the relevant dates in January, which you also have, how many meetings did the foreign minister attend on 8 January 2016 in Portsea? From 9 to 10 January 2015, which the minister notes is official business, how many meetings did she attend on those dates?

Senator Brandis: I will take those questions on notice. But I think I have already taken them on notice, because you asked what official business—

Senator KITCHING: No.

Senator Brandis: was conducted. Now you are asking about meetings; is that right?

Senator KITCHING: No. If you could listen, Senator Brandis. What I asked was, of those you have listed and the ones you are taking on notice, how many of those meetings were on the dates I have just given?

Senator Brandis: I will take that on notice.

Senator KITCHING: Thank you. Now, could I just go back to the issue around how the diary is managed. Let me read an extract from additional estimates on 2 March. This in in relation to questions around the 2016 Melbourne Cup. The Hansard states:

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

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

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

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

Then there was a bit of banter and it continues:

Senator KITCHING: Did she arrive or depart in Comcars?

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

If the foreign minister is attending to official business, how is that diarised in the department? If it is diarised in the department, why did that not come back in the questions on notice?

Ms Adamson : The answer is that the minister's diary is kept in her office. We do not keep records of every event that she attends. We would only keep a record if we were requested to provide a brief for a meeting on which she needed briefing. At this stage, she is very well across a wide range of issues. So even a meeting with—

Senator KITCHING: What about speeches?

Senator Brandis: Can Ms Adamson finish her answer, please?

Ms Adamson : The answer is that we don't keep a record of the minister's diary in the department.

Senator KITCHING: Were any briefs or speeches provided to the foreign minister for any of the events that either Senator Brandis has found out about or that he has taken on notice? In which case, why were they not noted in the questions on notice from the additional estimates period? I would like to know why we didn't get that detail when we asked the questions on notice.

Ms Adamson : We will take that on notice. But, as I said, it is not necessarily the case that the minister requires or requests a briefing for an official—

Senator KITCHING: I understand that.

Senator Brandis: Would you, Senator Kitching, kindly read the question on to the record?

Senator KITCHING: The question is, of the events, Senator Brandis, that you have managed to find out about—

Senator Brandis: No, the question that you just asked Ms Adamson about. The question taken on notice.

Senator KITCHING: Well, it will be in Hansard.

Senator Brandis: No, Senator Kitching. You have now implied that there is some inadequacy in the answer provided by the department.

Senator KITCHING: Yes.

Senator Brandis: So that we may judge the cogency of what you say, let us here the question that you say has not been properly answered. What was the question?

Senator KITCHING: The foreign minister noted that she was on official business—

Senator Brandis: No, what was the question?

Senator KITCHING: Senator Brandis, please let me finish. Don't judge me by your own standards, thank you. If you could just let me finish. What I am asking is, of the dates that we have been discussing, Senator Brandis has managed to find out some of the detail of the official business that the foreign minister conducted. Some of that he is going to take on notice, because he does not have some of those dates. I assume he will be able to find that out from the foreign minister. What I am wondering is, if the foreign minister is conducting official business, does the department keep a record of that? I accept that there might not be a brief for every meeting, but there must be one for the ASIS meeting. In which case, did the department not know that she was attending that—or a Cabinet meeting, for example. What I am asking is, if the department provided a brief or a speech or if there was a discussion, why in the responses to the questions on notice was that not listed in there? Is there a reason why it is not listed in there?

CHAIR: Senator Brandis, does that clarify the questions you asked?

Senator KITCHING: He just doesn't want to take the question.

Senator Brandis: No, it does not, because Senator Kitching, by innuendo, is suggesting that there was some inadequacy or inefficiency in the answers given to the question on notice. Whether there was depends on what the question was. Senator Kitching has carefully avoided telling the committee what the question was, to which she implies that the answer was insufficient. All I am asking her to do is tell us what the question was that she says was not sufficiently well answered.

CHAIR: Do you have the number of the questions on notice?

Senator KITCHING: I actually gave those at the beginning. Senator Brandis was not paying attention. That is what happened. The question is in relation to the question on notice. The responses given by the department to the question on notice—

Senator Brandis: And you say that the department's responses were insufficient. What was the question?

Senator KITCHING: What I am trying to understand is, if the foreign minister was doing official business in, for example, Portsea, why was that not noted in the response to the question on notice?

Senator Brandis: I can see why Justice Heydon formed the view he formed.

CHAIR: I now understand the question.

Senator KITCHING: Did you hear that?

CHAIR: I am trying to speak.

Senator Kitching interjecting

CHAIR: Your 20-minute window is up, and I am going to go to Senator Fawcett. But I now understand what it is that Senator Kitching is asking. Secretary, you may care, on the Hansard, to consider what it was that Senator Kitching was asking and respond to the committee in due course.

Senator Brandis: Ms Adamson has just said to me that she is not clear what is being asked of her. That is the reason why I made what I thought was a perfectly sensible inquiry, since the suggestion is that there is some kind of insufficiency or inadequacy in the department's answer to the questions on notice. We will not be able to form a view about that without knowing what the question was that was asked on notice.

CHAIR: I am going to finish this segment. I am going to ask Senator Kitching—

Senator KITCHING: I have another couple of questions.

CHAIR: You might have, but your 20-minute segment is up, and I am going to Senator Fawcett. I can come back to you.

Senator KITCHING: I am going to speak very slowly for Senator Brandis.

CHAIR: No. Listen to my directive. We are seeking a clarification for Ms Adamson as to what it is that you are specifically asking. If you could clarify that for me, and then I will move on to Senator Fawcett. Thank you.

Senator KITCHING: What I am asking is: in relation to the responses given by the department to the questions on notice—

Senator Brandis: Which one?

Senator KITCHING: Those questions on notice that have already been listed above and will be in the Hansard transcript.

Senator Brandis: I do not know which questions you are referring to, Senator, and neither does Ms Adamson. That is why we are asking you to read them onto the record. Just read them onto the record.

Senator KITCHING: Additional estimates, 2 March 2017—

Senator Brandis: Just read the questions on to the record.

CHAIR: Please, Senator.

Senator KITCHING: question on notice No. 22.

Senator BRANDIS: Good. What is it?

CHAIR: No.

Senator Brandis: Just read the question.

Senator GALLACHER: Chair, may I suggest that we have a short suspension to get the working of this committee back to the normal, professional standards of the committee. I request a five-minute suspension so that we can get this back on an orderly—

CHAIR: Yes. I am happy to.

Senator Brandis: Before you adjourn, Chair, lest there be any doubt at all in anyone's mind, all Ms Adamson and I are seeking to know is what the question was to which the answer was provided—because there is a suggestion that there is some insufficiency in the answer. We cannot form a view about that, obviously, unless we know what the question was.

CHAIR: Thank you. We are suspending for a couple of minutes.

Proceedings suspended from 11:34 to 11:41

CHAIR: If I can give my direction: Senator Kitching, the secretary is seeking some clarification as a result of questions that were taken on notice. I do please ask all colleagues to respect the integrity of this committee and to respect the reputation of each of us—on your side and mine. I do not want to see any personal commentary, please. I ask you, Senator Kitching, to seek those clarifications of the secretary. Ms Adamson, if you are not clear on what it is that you are being asked by Senator Kitching, please alert me and I will seek that clarification. Then we will move on to Senator Fawcett.

Senator KITCHING: I think where we were was that I was going to list the responses to the questions on notice that Ms Adamson is going to take on notice. They are Nos 21, 22, 41, 42, 68, and 69. For the sake of completeness, there was a series of questions asked by Senator Fawcett, and that is question No. 29. There are a number of questions on notice, and some of them refer back and forward to each other. A number of the questions on notice were responded to in No. 69, for example, if that helps. So I am giving you a very complete list there, Ms Adamson.

Ms Adamson : Thank you.

Senator Brandis: As we understand it, your question, in relation to each of the answers provided to those questions taken on notice, is: why were they answered in that way? Is that right?

Senator KITCHING: Yes. I will accept that wording. But I will also add, with the official business, why was that not listed in the questions on notice or the fact that she was on official business?

CHAIR: Thank you. So we understand that. We have had some preliminary responses from the Attorney-General and particularly from Ms Adamson. But for completeness, at the request of Senator Kitching, I will request that you come back to the committee having considered those questions on notice and your responses to them.

Senator Brandis: Chair, can I just put this on the record, please? I think this is clear but let me make it explicitly clear. I made the inquiries I made over the morning tea break and returned with the information that I have given the committee in relation to one particular date range in 2014, not to suggest that there was any insufficiency in the answer that was given—because I do not say that—but merely to illustrate the absurdity of the innuendo that this was not a period of official business.

CHAIR: Thank you, Senator Brandis. I have noted your comment, and you are entitled to make it. Nevertheless, the question has been asked by my colleague Senator Kitching, and Ms Adamson will respond in due course.

Senator KITCHING: And this is a process, Chair, that is to elicit a certain accountability and transparency about the way public money is spent and the conduct of public officials.

CHAIR: Is there anything else that you want to ask?

Senator KITCHING: Yes, I do want to go to something else. In relation to the G'day USA gala event, what was the total cost? Again I note the responses to question on notice No. 29 that 80 per cent of the cost of the G'day USA event is funded from private business or private donations. I think in 2016-17 it is going to be around $2.5 million. There was an asterisk to a footnote saying that not all of the sponsorship agreements had been finalised but it was going to be around that. It was $2.498 million or something like that. Could we get a cost of the actual gala dinner? In the response, you gave us the ticket prices but I am wondering what the total cost of the dinner was.

Ms Heckscher : The 2016-17 G'Day USA gala cost US$829,097,which is approximately A$1.1 million. The 80 per cent that you referred to was about the contribution to the total program. And the reason the total program costs were not set is that there are still events underway and still, therefore, sponsorship underway. So those figures will not be finalised until the end of the program.

Senator KITCHING: Thank you. We asked in questions on notice No. 69 in question 2:

How many venues in total were requested to provide a hire quotation?

Question on notice No. 69, answers 1-4 just says, 'A number of venues'.

Ms Heckscher : I am just looking for the details. When I find the information, I will confirm this for you.

Senator KITCHING: You can take it on notice. That was a very specific question that was put to you and then it has just come back saying:

A number of venues were considered for the Los Angeles Gala and a final decision was based on price, availability, location, suitability and capacity.

It then goes on to answer other questions on notice but in the same paragraph. How many venues were looked at?

Ms Heckscher : My understanding—and I will find it—is that there were something like 13 venues that were staked out to a certain extent. They were checked for things like availability and whether the set-up, the size and all the rest of it was appropriate. Many of them were eliminated for all sorts of different reasons—size et cetera. Of the final five, for which I do not have details, essentially there was only one hotel left standing at the end that had both availability, size and all of the particular arrangements that were needed. But there were something like 13 that were actually visited, investigated and checked into by other means. But when I find the relevant parts of my notes I will confirm if it is different. That is just off the top of my head.

Mr Wood : If I could assist: it was 13 venues.

Senator KITCHING: Why didn't the response just say, '13 venues'?

Ms Heckscher : I am not sure that it was 13 venues that were requested to provide a hire quotation, which was the specific questions.

Senator KITCHING: Can I take you to the specific questions? I am looking at question 2 in additional estimates question on notice No. 69, which says:

How many venues in total were requested to provide a hire quotation?

You are saying that 13 venues were sort of looked at but they may not have been asked to provide a quotation.

Ms Heckscher : Absolutely. As you could imagine, there would have been a lot of scoping work done, which is useful for future years as well. But, if they were not going to be available, then they will not have been asked to provide a hire quotation. Or, if the size was inappropriate or the set-up could not be accommodated, then there is no point in asking them for a hire quotation.

Senator KITCHING: So was only one in the end asked—the one left standing?

Ms Heckscher : I will have to double-check that. That is why the question was answered in that way—to indicate that there were a lot of venues considered. But I will chase up an answer to that specific question.

Senator KITCHING: In the last additional estimates period, we also discussed the fact that the foreign minister took some annual leave prior to the G'day USA events. That was sometime in the middle of January. I think it was 20 January. I am not asking you to comment on this. When a parliamentarian is extending a trip outside of the official dates of the official travel, it says in the guidelines that advice must be sought from the Department of Finance. Would the foreign minister have sought that advice and would it be in writing?

Ms Logan : Yes, it would have been sought in writing from the Prime Minister's office.

Senator KITCHING: Could we get a copy of that?

Ms Adamson : Could you just repeat that, because I thought you asked about the Minister for Finance?

Senator KITCHING: No. It was the Department of Finance. When you are going on a trip and if you are extending the trip outside of official dates—

Ms Adamson : Yes, that is if the travel is at official expense.

Senator KITCHING: Did the foreign minister go to the G'day USA as an official event?

Ms Logan : Yes, it was.

Senator KITCHING: She took some annual leave prior to that.

Ms Adamson : Yes, she did.

Senator KITCHING: Would that advice be in writing?

Ms Adamson : I think your question implies that she was traveling at official expense.

Senator KITCHING: No. I am not questioning that at all. I am asking, if she took annual leave prior to the official part of the trip she was on, was that advice given to her in writing and can this committee have a copy of that advice?

Ms Adamson : My understanding is that—unless Ms Logan knows for a fact that it was received and sought—that advice would only have been sought if the foreign minister was not paying personally for her travel, because there would be no need for her to do it in those circumstances.

Ms Logan : I think, Secretary, the foreign minister did contribute personally.

Ms Adamson : That is my point. Because she paid her own fare there was no need to seek in writing the advice from the Department of Finance that you were suggesting that she needed to do under the guidelines.

Ms Logan : To clarify, I think that the advice needs to be sought from the Prime Minister's office. I am not aware of a requirement to have it in writing from the Department of Finance.

Senator KITCHING: Okay. Thank you.

CHAIR: Senator Fawcett.

Senator FAWCETT: I would like to talk about the legislation, Secretary, that has just been introduced regarding travel by registered child sex offenders. While the officials are coming to the table, I notice in front of the Attorney-General the diaries of former foreign minister Mr Carr. I have seen some extracts of that where he describes how he directed officials to book additional days for him to go to shows and things like that. I would be interested to know if you have the request for the Prime Minister authorising those extensions, if we are going to dig into history.

Senator Brandis: On 2 February, 2014, for example, Senator Fawcett:

Helena—

That is his wife—

and I gave ourselves Tuesday to Saturday in London. While the days were packed, we saw Pinter's Old Time

And it goes on and on about the lights of the theatre and other cultural activities during those five days. No doubt Mr Carr, as he said, engaged in some official business on those days as well. I think we do step onto very dangerous territory when people from one side of politics try to impugn the integrity of foreign ministers, as we have heard this morning. I think the biblical injunction of 'Let he who has no sin cast the first stone' may be relevant here. But, of course, there is no moral equivalence between Mr Carr's 18-month extended global tourism as foreign minister and Ms Bishop, who is regarded universally as one of the most hardworking foreign ministers Australia has ever known and one of the most legendary, hardworking ministers in the government.

Senator FAWCETT: Thank you. Mr Nash and Secretary, could I come to the registered child sex offenders bill? The details of that have been announced by the foreign minister and the Minister for Justice. I am interested to understand from DFAT's perspective about both the operation of the withdrawal of passports and particularly your interaction with the states in terms of getting information about who is on a register. Lastly, the interaction you have had to date with authorities overseas where Australians with this kind of history and criminal behaviour have travelled and whether there is an extent of cooperation in terms of trying to identify and mitigate those behaviours overseas as well as this action, which I think everyone is welcoming.

Mr Nash : Firstly, I would like to highlight the fact the legislation is still in draft, so I will limit my answers, if I may, to the way in which this is going to operate from an intent point of view. To take the last part of your question first, relations with overseas authorities in regards to child sex offences are really handled by the AFP. The only time we would become involved is if there were passport dimension associated with it—for example, if perpetrators were arrested overseas, then arrangements could be made upon request for their passports to be withdrawn. That is the existing arrangement. Obviously the existing arrangements are totally inadequate.

There are 20,000 registered child sex offenders across Australia. Those offenders are registered on each and every one of the state sex offender registers, which makes it a large exercise in bringing all of that together. The Attorney-General's Department is already having discussions with the states on how this might work. There is a general acceptance of the fact that we will have to work together to make it happen.

Since the original announcement last November by Ministers Bishop and Keenan that the government would consider bringing forward legislation in regard to this matter, we in the department have been putting together a contingency plan as to how we might deal with this. As you can imagine, it is a rather large and convoluted exercise. We already have a plan about how to deal with it. We have had $4 million allocated to deal with the costs of dealing with it. Not only are there 20,000 people already registered, there are a further 2,500 being added to those registers every single year. So the first thing we have to do is deal with those 10 a day, on average, that are being added to the register in addition to the 20,000 we will categorise. We will start with the lifers and we will work down the list.

Senator FAWCETT: Could you just explain what you mean by 'lifers'?

Mr Nash : Yes, 'lifers' are people who have been on the register for their entire life.

Senator FAWCETT: Why would they be there? Is it multiple offences?

Mr Nash : It is usually multiple offences. The number of offences and the seriousness of those offences is taken into account. The other part of your question, if I recall correctly, was how this is actually going to work. That is going to take quite a deal of coordination, which is still being worked through. Competent authorities in each of those states will notify us and we will then take action to cancel the passports. Keep in mind that not all of those 20,000 have actually got passports. The other part of the exercise will be that we will be required to put a flag in the system against the names of the others so that they do not escape the net if they subsequently apply.

Senator FAWCETT: Moving beyond the passport issue to the broader concept of controlling the movement of people with this kind of criminal history and, obviously, a large degree of recidivism, have other nations gone down this path? Has DFAT consulted with other nations around these sorts of measures?

Ms Adamson : My understanding is that Australia will be the first country to develop and implement this kind of legislation and to take action in this way. I think without any doubt it is a world leading initiative.

Senator FAWCETT: Are there international bodies that Australia is on where DFAT has been consulting about the need for the legislation and encouraging other countries to perhaps consider similar measures?

Mr Nash : There are the five-eyes arrangements that we are involved in, as are other arms of government. The most recent meeting was held in Wellington just a few weeks ago. This issue got some considerable prominence in regards to that. I have to say that the other countries are envious of us for having taken this initiative here in Australia. The only other thing that comes even marginally close to similar action in relation to this issue is by the United States, which is considering an endorsement in the passports of convicted paedophiles. Clearly, that action is not going to have the same effect as what is being proposed here is likely to have.

Senator FAWCETT: Thank you.

CHAIR: Senator Wong.

Senator WONG: I will come back to passports. I just want to check what was covered while I was out of the room by Senator Fawcett, so I will come back to you later. Can I ask the minister, I note yesterday in your absence Senator Cash said:

Australia's national interests are best served by US participation in the Paris Agreement, consistent with our support for a collective global response to climate change.

I think that was a statement, as I understood it, of the government's position. This is my only copy and I will hand it to you if the secretary is not able to. Mr Craig Kelly, who is a member of the coalition has a Facebook post linking to the story that we discussed yesterday that suggested that the president was going to quit the Paris climate pact. Mr Kelly has posted:

It's not confirmed yet, but have the champagne on ice.

Could you tell me if that is a reflection of the government's position?

Senator Brandis: I have not seen—

Senator WONG: I am about to give it to you.

Senator Brandis: Mr Kelly's Facebook post.

Senator WONG: Do you want to wait? Here you go.

Senator Brandis: Look, Mr Kelly is entitled to his opinion as a member of the backbench, but obviously backbenchers do not state the government's position. The government's position, as indicated by Senator Cash yesterday, is that Australia is a party to the Paris convention. There is a lot of speculation, as we know, about what course the United States may take. But Australia is a party to the convention, and there is no questions of Australia remaining a party to the convention, as far as this government is concerned.

Senator WONG: No question of Australia not remaining?

Senator Brandis: We will remain.

Senator WONG: You will remain, yes.

Senator Brandis: It is the government's position that we will remain a party to the convention.

Senator WONG: I understand what you are saying. You know, he is a member of the backbench, but isn't it a little bit embarrassing to have a minister on one day saying, 'Our position is to remain in' and to have the foreign minister assert that through media, which has been reported today, and then have a member of the coalition party room saying that he is putting champagne on ice pending an announcement that the US would withdraw?

Senator Brandis: Senator Wong, I am not going to comment on Mr Kelly's rhetorical flourishes. You and I have had this debate over many years in many different contexts. It is a cultural difference, if I may say so, between your party and mine. We do not feel embarrassed or threatened by the fact that there is a variety of opinions in our party room. But the government's policy is as I have stated it.

Senator WONG: Well, we do not have people in our party room who are celebrating the damage to multilateral agreements on climate change. Yes, that is true.

Senator Brandis: Look, I am merely disagreeing with your proposition that the government should be embarrassed by something that Mr Kelly may have said. The government's position is clear. There is no doubt about it whatsoever. But we are not afraid of individual members of our backbench having the right to speak freely and put a position at variance from the government's policy.

Senator WONG: Do you have some further information from the post about what the president is about to announce.

Mr Suckling : No, I do not—other than the post is reporting that a decision has not yet been made.

Senator WONG: I think the president has a press conference scheduled for 5 am our time. Is that right? Nods do not get picked up by Hansard.

Senator Brandis: The officers have been here, Senator Wong, as you know—

Senator WONG: Well, he nodded at me, and I said that nods do not get picked up. Is that right?

Mr Suckling : Well, there has been a tweet saying he will make an announcement at '…3 P.M. The White House Rose Garden'. The advice we got overnight from our post, having spoken to the administration, was that the decision had not yet been made.

Senator WONG: Is the advice that the press conference is being held? I think the tweet was from the president, so I think we can take that as read.

Mr Suckling : Yes.

Senator WONG: Back to the other issue of Mr Kelly being a member of the backbench, isn't he chair of your energy and environment committee?

Senator Brandis: I do not know.

Senator WONG: It would seem odd if someone with such a responsibility advocates a position that is so contrary to the Prime Minister and the foreign minister. You do not think that is odd?

Senator Brandis: I do not think that. A member of the backbench may have a different view from the government on any particular matter. We rejoice in the variety of opinions in our party room.

Senator WONG: So you rejoice in the chair of your environment and energy committee wanting to celebrate the possibility of the US pulling out of the climate—

Senator Brandis: You know that is not—

Senator WONG: I am asking!

Senator Brandis: Well, the answer is no. You know what I said, Senator. I do not know if Mr Kelly is the chairman of a particular backbench committee. Nevertheless, under the rules and principles by which the Liberal Party and the coalition operates, backbench members of parliament are at liberty to express views at variance with government policy and we do not find that problematic or threatening. We find it an aspect of the freedom that our parties enjoy and for which we rejoice.

Senator WONG: Yes, its looked very enjoyable over the last couple of years. Can I now turn to the issue of the Philippines? I particularly want to ask questions about a call that has been widely reported between President Trump and President Duterte. It is a transcript that has been reported on CNN, in the Washington Post and the New York Times which suggests that the president congratulated President Duterte on his approach to the war on drugs in a phone call on 29 April. This is the transcript that has been reported in those media outlets:

I just wanted to congratulate you because I am hearing of the unbelievable job on the drug problem... Many countries have the problem, we have a problem, but what a great job you are doing and I just wanted to call and tell you that.

Is there anything you can tell me about that transcript? Has that been discussed with the Americans as to whether or not it is an accurate transcript?

Mr Cox : No, I am not aware that we have discussed that with the US administration.

Senator WONG: Do we want to get someone from the division that covers the Americas? Because it is a question that is about the extent to which—

Ms Adamson : Yes, but a number of our divisions are engaged with our relationship with the United States. It is a broad and very significant relationship.

Senator WONG: Obviously.

Mr Cox : I am confident that Mr Cox has—

Senator WONG: Sure. Well, Mr Cox, were you aware of the reporting of that transcript?

Mr Cox : I have seen the reports of that conversation between President Duterte and President Trump, yes.

Senator WONG: Right. Via you or via the secretary, has any action been taken—and by action I mean raising with interlocutors, conversations, et cetera—by DFAT officers either here or at post in respect of the comments attributed to the president in that transcript?

Mr Cox : Officers of our post in Washington I am sure are talking to colleagues in the State Department all the time. This may have come up—

Senator WONG: That is not an answer.

Mr Cox : but I am not aware of it.

Senator WONG: Is there anybody here who can tell me whether or not—

Ms Adamson : Senator, can I suggest that we take it on notice, because not only would we need to check with Washington, we would also need to check with our embassy in Manila. Obviously these sorts of matters in other capitals are often discussed between officials of our two countries.

Senator WONG: Sure. I just want to know if we have clarified whether that is in fact the US position.

Ms Adamson : We will take that on notice.

Senator WONG: And if it does reflect the US position, have we put any views about that?

Ms Adamson : I want to give you an accurate answer, and we will take it on notice.

Senator WONG: Sure. I think to her credit, the foreign minister has, both publicly and privately, articulated Australia's position in respect to the rule of law and extrajudicial executions, which have been reported. Correct?

Ms Adamson : Yes, she has.

Mr Cox : And the war on drugs and our preferred approach being a health-based approach.

Senator WONG: Given those public statements, I just wonder what our response has been to these reports. I do not know if the transcript is accurate. What I can say is that you would know that it has been widely reported. Has the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade been involved in any discussion about resettlement agreements other than those that have been publicly discussed with the US government? I am just asking what you have done. You do not need to say that it is a matter for immigration.

Ms Adamson : Sure. I will ask Mr Goledzinowski.

Mr Goledzinowski : Discussions, yes. Negotiations, no.

Senator WONG: Can you tell me what the difference is?

Mr Goledzinowski : It is a matter that we raise periodically with other countries pursuant to the agreement we have with the government of Nauru under the MOU between Australia and Nauru that we would assist them with exploring resettlement options for the caseload in Nauru. We also have a similar undertaking with Papua New Guinea. I make that distinction because there has been a question in the past before this committee about negotiations. We have said no to the question on negotiations because it is a matter of degree, but it is a distinction that I think is probably apparent to most of us.

Senator WONG: Not necessarily apparent to me. I may be being obtuse.

Mr Goledzinowski : No. Maybe I should not have drawn the distinction, but I wanted to make sure that we were not contradicting earlier evidence. It is something that we raise periodically. It is something that occasionally is raised with us. Negotiation is something that would involve a greater degree of engagement of the questions.

Senator WONG: Okay. Have any countries expressed an interest? All of these questions leave aside the American arrangements. Have any third countries expressed any interest in exploring further a refugee resettlement agreement with Australia?

Mr Goledzinowski : Discussion I think might continue with some countries.

Senator WONG: So there are discussions currently on foot with some countries. I am trying to be fair. Is that an accurate indication?

Mr Goledzinowski : We have raised the question with some countries and in some cases we are awaiting a response.

Senator WONG: In respect to others, have there been any positive responses from the ones who have not come back to us?

Mr Goledzinowski : That starts to, if I may say, go into an area that previously has been the subject of public interest immunity claims.

Senator WONG: Okay. On this occasion I will not press that. That does not mean I am conceding the point, just so we are clear. With how many countries are discussions still on foot? I am not asking for which countries.

Mr Goledzinowski : No, I appreciate that.

Senator WONG: I might do that in my next question.

Mr Goledzinowski : A number of countries. I would need to take that on notice.

Senator WONG: More than one? Less than five?

Mr Goledzinowski : I would really need to—

Senator Brandis: They will take the question on notice.

Senator WONG: Sure.

Mr Goledzinowski : Particularly because this is something that cuts across several portfolios.

Senator WONG: In terms of opening the discussion and then negotiating, is it that one department will handle one? Ms Adamson, you should not look at me disapprovingly. It is not fair. I am trying to understand. Do you open discussions and then say to Immigration, 'Look, country X may be open to it' and then they take over negotiations? Or is it one in, all in—that is, DFAT continues to participate in the discussion process right to the end point? I just want to get a sense of how you perceive DFAT's role in these explorations.

Mr Goledzinowski : There is very close cooperation between the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and the Department of Immigration and Border Protection but there is not a template that would apply universally with every case.

Senator WONG: It is not so much a template. It is annunciating whose responsibility is what. That is what I am trying to clarify. What is your responsibility to do and what is their responsibility to do? Is it your responsibility to put out the feelers? Is it their responsibility to negotiate or is it your responsibility and their responsibility jointly to take the process from beginning to end?

Mr Goledzinowski : I think it is fair to say that nearly everything that happens in this frame is done jointly—certainly in consultation but very often jointly. But the particular balance of expertise that is brought to the table would be much as you have described. From the foreign affairs perspective, we manage the broader relationships within the context of which these discussions take place, whereas the Department of Immigration and Border Protection have the expertise in terms of the technical and operational aspects.

Senator WONG: Have we been the initiator in all of those conversations with those countries, the number of which you have taken on notice?

Mr Goledzinowski : The discussions usually are already discussions that are happening around a broader set of bilateral global issues. Whenever I am in the room, the question of irregular migration and the challenges of refugee management are usually already on the agenda.

Senator WONG: Sure. That is a different issue. This is about resettlement. I am asking specifically: you have taken on notice how many countries we are having conversations, discussions or negotiations with currently regarding possible refugee resettlement arrangements. Right? I am asking, in respect of that subset, were any of those countries who approached us expressing interest or were they all countries that we have approached?

Mr Goledzinowski : Generally speaking, in the context of the broader discussion, if resettlement is raised it will usually be raised by the Australian side. If I may say, it is a slightly artificial question because sometimes these discussions are quite—

Senator WONG: This is the asymmetry of information, you see. Of course I am going to ask artificial questions because I do not know everything. You know far more than I do, so I have to ask them in certain ways. You can just tell me more and I will ask better questions.

Mr Goledzinowski : I am happy to answer questions, Senator.

Senator WONG: Are any of the discussions currently being undertaken by the Department of Immigration and Border Protection?

Mr Goledzinowski : You would have to refer that question to them.

Senator WONG: But to your knowledge. Are you in charge of these discussions or is the joint thing? This is not the subset that you have taken on notice.

Mr Goledzinowski : It is entirely possible that a senior officer of that department may have raised it without my knowledge. I think I would be wise to defer to them.

Senator WONG: That is fair enough. Has this department been involved in any discussions or negotiations on the closure of the Manus Island Regional Processing Centre?

Mr Goledzinowski : That is led by the Department of Immigration and Border Protection.

Senator WONG: What has been this department's involvement?

Mr Goledzinowski : We, of course, have a high commission in Papua New Guinea which is actively interested and engaged in all aspects of the bilateral relationship. There are a number of areas of this department that are also following those discussions, but it is very much led by the Department of Immigration and Border Protection.

Senator WONG: Has PNG asked the Australian government for assistance in respect of the closure of the centre?

Mr Goledzinowski : I am not aware of those details.

Senator WONG: Right. Have they asked for assistance in relation to the period immediately following closure, because there has been an additional request?

Mr Goledzinowski : Again, I think those are subjects of discussion between the Department of Immigration and Border Protection and the government of Papua New Guinea.

Senator WONG: Has there has been consideration to additional aid funding associated with the closure?

Mr Goledzinowski : I am not aware of that, but there may be others.

Mr McDonald : No.

Senator WONG: Thank you very much. I will go to Mr Ciobo's attendance at the BRI meeting in Beijing. Was the media release of 14 May in which he announced his attendance at the BRI forum drafted in the minister's office? I am sorry, I will have to get you a clean copy because I have scribbled on this. It talked about the BRI being a key event. It will be on his website. Who drafted that? Was it drafted by the department initially and then the minister's office?

Ms Adamson : We will need to check that for you.

Mr Fletcher : Normally media releases are drafted in the department and then provided to the office, where they may be amended before release. I will have to take that on notice. I do not recall how or where the draft was done and how it was put together.

Senator WONG: Okay. I will come back to that. I will just ask the secretariat to print off a clean copy. Can you tell me who attended the event in addition to Mr Ciobo?

Mr Fletcher : From the department, I believe it was the assistant secretary for east Asia branch, at the time Jason Robertson.

Senator WONG: Anyone else?

Mr Fletcher : Someone from the embassy doubtless was there as well. Mr Ciobo would have had one or two of his staff as well.

Senator WONG: Can anyone tell me if it was one or two.

Ms Adamson : Yes, we should be able to check that for you.

Senator WONG: Was it Mr Robertson at the time?

Mr Fletcher : Yes.

Senator WONG: Did anybody else attend from the Australian government?

Mr Fletcher : Not the federal government.

Senator WONG: Some state governments attended?

Mr Fletcher : The Premier of Victoria attended the event.

Senator WONG: Can you explain why Mr Ciobo attended instead of the foreign minister?

Mr Fletcher : Mr Ciobo was invited by the Chinese government.

Senator WONG: Was the foreign minister?

Mr Fletcher : No.

Senator WONG: Can you tell me when it was decided that Mr Ciobo would attend the event?

Ms Adamson : It was around the time of Premier Li's visit. We had been invited to attend, and as I recall we advised the Chinese during that visit that Australia would be represented by Mr Ciobo, given the obvious investment aspect of the Belt and Road Initiative and Mr Ciobo's responsibility for elements of our investment policy.

Senator WONG: Now that you raise Premier Li's visit, I think it was reported—and perhaps you could outline what occurred—that there was progress in considering cooperation between Australia and China in respect of the BRI ahead of the visit, although no announcement was made. Can you just tell me what work was done in the lead up to the visit in relation to the BRI?

Ms Adamson : Mr Fletcher is preparing to answer that question. To come back to your preceding one, the minister was accompanied on that visit to Beijing by two advisers.

Senator WONG: Thank you.

Mr Fletcher : Sorry, the questions was, what work did we do on Belt and Road Initiative in advance—

Senator WONG: Yes. So there has been public discussion of some cooperation being explored ahead of the Premier's visit. Can you give us some more information about that?

Mr Fletcher : There were a number of proposals made by the Chinese side and the Australian side for issues to be discussed during their premier's visit, and one of those was a MOU which would link the Belt and Road Initiative and Australia's program to develop northern Australia. We did not proceed to conclude an MOU on that subject.

Senator WONG: Was the MOU specifically in relation to northern Australia or was it a higher level than that?

Mr Fletcher : It was a general document. It was a fairly vague piece of paper. I think the title was meant to link, as I said, northern Australia and the Belt and Road Initiative. I mean, it was problematic for us on a range of issues. That was provided to us, I think, in February. There was some back and forth during February and March. The visit of the Premier, I think, was 22 to 26 March.

CHAIR: Thank you. Can we pause there for lunch?

Senator WONG: Sure.

CHAIR: We will be in resumption at 1.30 pm and then I will go back to you, Senator Wong.

Proceedings suspended from 12:30 to 13:30

CHAIR: We are in continuation. Ms Adamson, do you have officers who wish to make quick explanations or provide further information before I go to Senator Rice?

Ms Adamson : Thank you, Chair. I do.

Mr Philp : Senator Wong asked yesterday when the travel advice for Australians travelling to Egypt was raised to the level 'reconsider your need to travel'. The answer was: on 2 July 2013. And the level of the travel advice for the North Sinai area specifically was raised to 'do not travel' on 6 September 2012.

CHAIR: Thank you very much. Dr Strahan.

Dr Strahan : Yesterday I was asked about the representations that we have made on the persecution of LGBTI people in Chechnya. I would like to confirm that we raised these abuses for a sixth time, in fact yesterday morning before I gave the answer to my question. Secondly, the formal note that we gave to the Russian authorities referred to people in Chechnya being persecuted and arrested based on their sexual orientation. It asked about possible breaches of Russian law and asked for swift action in following up these abuses.

CHAIR: Thank you. Mr Sloper, are you here to also make a contribution?

Ms Adamson : He is.

Mr Sloper : I am here to make a contribution as well.

CHAIR: Do not leave, Dr Strahan. I think Senator Moore wants a quick follow-up.

Senator MOORE: Is that a technical term in DFAT?

Dr Strahan : Yes.

Senator MOORE: Can you explain to me what that means?

Dr Strahan : That is a third-person note, in the rather arcane language of diplomacy. That is a formal communication between our government and the Russian government, the most formal and the oldest type of note.

Senator MOORE: That is kind of a high level of interaction?

Dr Strahan : Yes.

Senator MOORE: How is that presented? Is it by letter?

Dr Strahan : It is officially stamped and it is formally handed over.

Senator MOORE: Here?

Dr Strahan : In this case we did this in Moscow.

Senator MOORE: In Moscow.

Dr Strahan : To the foreign ministry.

Senator MOORE: So, the head of our—

Dr Strahan : Someone in the mission handed it over.

Senator MOORE: Someone in the mission handed it over to the foreign minister?

Dr Strahan : Yes.

Senator MOORE: To someone in the foreign ministry. So, that has now formally been received?

Dr Strahan : Yes.

Senator MOORE: And that is a mutually understood level of seriousness, something like that?

Dr Strahan : Yes.

Senator MOORE: If I remember yesterday from your answers, we have not had any formal response to the previous notifications we have had?

Dr Strahan : No.

Senator MOORE: Have we done that level of interaction before?

Dr Strahan : On this particular issue, this is the only third-person note that we have lodged. That was on 13 April. But since then we have done six in-person representations, including yesterday here in Canberra.

Senator MOORE: Thank you.

CHAIR: Mr Sloper.

Mr Sloper : I received a series of questions yesterday primarily from Senator Kitching in regard to issues in PNG. If you wish, I could read out the shorter answers and then I might table one document for the committee.

CHAIR: Thank you.

Mr Sloper : Firstly, I was asked about funding for the National Research Institute APEC Studies Centres. On 21 March this year the Australian government announced that it would provide 4.1 million kina, which is approximately A$1.7 million, from the ODA budget to support the creation of a PNG APEC Studies Centre, which will be based at the National Research Institute.

Senator Kitching asked me how much of that would be from the ODA budget. I can confirm that it is $1.7 million. She asked what portion of that funding would be used to upgrade NRI facilities. Approximately $420,000 will be provided for the refurbishment of the current admin building of the National Research Institute, and that will accommodate the APEC Studies Centre. The refurbishment works have already commenced.

Senator Kitching then asked me how many staff at the NRI are going to be specifically focused on APEC and whether the funding would provide additional positions at the NRI. Australian funding will support six positions—two researchers, two communications officers, an administration officer and a finance trainee. These are all new positions.

I was then asked about the twinning program between NRI and RMIT's APEC Studies Centres in Australia, whether there had been progress on the establishment of this program and how much of the funding that I have just mentioned will be used for the twinning program. The twinning program between the two institutions is very close to being finalised. Funding for the program is now estimated to be approximately $1.7 million Kina or A$450,450. That is the end of the shorter questions in regards to NRI.

I was also asked about support for female voters in PNG for the election period. Through the International Foundation for Electoral Systems, IFES, Australia is providing technical assistance for developing the PNG Electoral Commission's election awareness strategy and targeted public information campaign election processes. The IFES received approximately $4 million of funding in 2016-17 for this activity. The technical assistance includes voter awareness print and electronic communication materials that encourage women voter participation. IFES has also supported the PNG Electoral Commission to implement a policy to recruit more female poll workers, which can contribute to better female voter participation, including through recruitment posters now targeting women. We are also supporting the PNG Electoral Commission in reaffirming the policy of separate female and female polling lines in booths at polling places. Training for poll workers, developed by the AEC, has integrated these arrangements now in most polling station plans.

I was also asked a question about training journalists. This is the last one I will answer now and then I think I can table the detail on the other issues. This is in regard specifically to media training in association with the election. The Media for Development Initiative, one of the initiatives in our bilateral program, is providing elections training for journalists, supporting public forums and debates on key policies and issues, and assisting the NBC, the national broadcaster, to broadcast PNG Electoral Commission voter awareness announcements. This initiative has received approximately $1 million in funding from us in 2016-17, and the participants have been drawn from a wide cross-section of the PNG media.

As I said, I might now table—and I have prepared it so that it is in a single document without the points I have just made—a response to some comparative data on spending from 2017 through to 2020 elections, but I can leave that with you. Unfortunately, there are no graphics, but it can be drawn into graphics.

Senator MOORE: I will make my own. Chair, I have one follow-up question on that as well.

CHAIR: Do so now, Senator Moore, while Mr Sloper is there.

Senator MOORE: Thank you for the detail on the female voters. I had heard that there were special programs there. Can we see whether we have a bit of a model around what form of support we give for women in elections? I know we have a history of supporting elections when asked to do so, but particularly in the Pacific because of the acknowledged issues around elections and engaging with women. I thought some of those strategies that you outlined seemed particularly practical, and I am just seeing whether we are creating a bit of a database about what works, how much it costs and getting a knowledge base on the best way of doing this work. People have been struggling for years about the best way to engage. Thank you.

CHAIR: Thank you, Mr Sloper. Thank you, Ms Adamson, for organising those responses so quickly. Senator Rice.

Senator RICE: I am interested in Smartraveller advice particularly for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer people. Given that LGBTI people are a specific group prone to prejudice, violence and legal persecution—and as we have seen, it can change and escalate in various places around the world—I want to know what framework has been established on both the Smartraveller site and more broadly in the provision and dissemination of advice from the department.

Mr Philp : The Smartraveller website has a specific LGBTI page now to provide some advice to LGBTI travellers. I cannot say that we have LGBTI advice on every single country page yet, but we are working our way through. From my impression, about two-thirds of the travel advice would have that in there specifically now and we will work our way through all of them.

Senator RICE: Have you done any engagement with the LGBTI community here in Australia to determine their needs as travellers?

Mr Philp : I can take that on notice.

Senator RICE: So, you do not know whether you have done any? Would you be the person to know if you had done any?

Mr Philp : Yes. We did a lot of consultation with various different focus groups and traveller groups, but it was a couple of years ago. I do not recall specifically, which is why I said I would take it on notice. We do not do—if this is your question—consistent consultations with those groups any more than we do with a lot of the other groups. We simply do not have enough staff to be doing that consistently across every interest group. We think it is a particular issue for us and for Australian travellers, but we are reasonably confident of our mechanisms for looking at what is needed by travellers of all sorts.

Senator RICE: Given the escalation like Aceh in Indonesia and in Chechnya at the moment, are you considering the need to do more consultation in terms of what the needs are and revising the advice that has been given to travellers?

Mr Philp : My interest in the first instance is trying to drive it through all the different travel advices. So, specifically for the one you are talking about, our Indonesia travel advice does not yet have specific advice for LGBTI travellers, which I think is a gap that we have to address fairly soon. We are in consultation with our mission in Jakarta about what the appropriate advice should be. It mostly relates to what local laws are, the level of comfort with LGBTI travellers, and countries where there may be no laws against homosexual behaviour but where cultural practices are opposed to it or where they are very conservative communities. It is more about ensuring LGBTI travellers have the awareness they need when they choose to travel to those places.

Senator RICE: Are you looking at urgently updating the information that is available for Indonesia and Aceh? Because at the moment issues of homosexuality in Indonesia do not even appear under the heading for laws or other laws under local customs on your Indonesia page? When it comes to Aceh, it talks about sharia law and then, 'Inform yourself about the laws. If in doubt, seek local advice', which actually could be extremely dangerous. Do you acknowledge that that is currently inappropriate advice for people travelling in Aceh?

Mr Philp : As I said, we need to update the Indonesia travel advice for LGBTI travellers.

Senator RICE: Yes.

Mr Philp : I am agreeing with your position.

Senator RICE: And you do acknowledge that that advice is dangerous at the moment, for people to be asked to seek local advice?

Mr Philp : Local advice means country advice, Indonesian advice. I cannot claim that our travel advice would ever be the sole source of information Australians should go to for advice on travelling in any country. That means we really are urging Australians to be self-reliant, all kinds of Australians, and that includes informing themselves, not relying solely on advice we provide. We should never be the only stop for an Australian trying to think about how to travel. We provide pointers, some broad ideas, some warning points, but you should never be travelling solely on the basis of what we say. You should be informing yourself first.

Senator RICE: Would you agree that suggesting to LGBTI travellers it would be appropriate to seek local advice could indeed be very dangerous and is exactly what you should not be recommending they do?

Mr Philp : Local advice in this case refers to our Indonesian-level advice, but you are right; it could be misleading in this case.

Senator RICE: Yes. Would you consider removing that as a matter of urgency from your site?

Mr Philp : We will look at the overall language if you wish.

Senator RICE: What processes and policies have you developed to support LGBTI Australians who find themselves caught up in prejudice and anti-LGBTI activities in country?

Mr Philp : LGBTI travellers will be given exactly the same sorts of consular support that all Australians get. We have a particular emphasis these days—and Ms Bishop is shortly going to announce a new consular strategy—on vulnerable Australians. I think in some kinds of countries LGBTI travellers should certainly be classified as vulnerable Australians, whose cases will get particular attention and assistance. I cannot be generic about it, but certainly in situations where LGBTI travellers could be considered vulnerable, vulnerable by virtue of the local laws or the application of the local laws by that country, they would get special support as any vulnerable Australian would.

Senator RICE: Going back to your advice, I am told that DFAT was approached on its Russian travel advisory in 2013. You are saying now that you are reviewing the country pages. What resources are going into that at the moment and what resources are being put towards it? It is 2013. As to concern about the level of advice that was given with regard to Russia in 2013, at that stage it was said that there would be a broad review of the country pages and a commitment to better information for LGBTI travellers. But we are four years on and it does not seem that the level of information for LGBTI travellers has improved all that substantially in those four years.

Mr Philp : I am not sure I would agree with that, but the Russian travel advice to which you refer makes the point that, although Russian law does not allow for discrimination against LGBTI persons, in parts of the country social attitudes can be much more conservative and discrimination occurs, amounting to persecution in some areas. In reference to specific areas, we would not single out LGBTI travellers in Chechnya or in the North Caucasus, because we say 'do not travel' to all Australians regardless of sexual preferences.

Senator RICE: With regard to the urgency of getting better advice, how urgent is that review of those country pages and what resources are going into it?

Mr Philp : We have a section in Canberra that deals with the travel advice. They consult with all our posts around the world to provide input into the travel advice for every country. We need to keep the travel advice for all countries, for all groups and for all areas up to date. As you can imagine, that is a very large undertaking with 170-something pieces of travel advice. Certainly, the advice for LGBTI travellers, from my point of view, needs to be driven through all of those travel advices and kept up to date. It is the expectation that posts will do that. It is certainly one of our priorities, but we have a number of priorities that we are trying to keep equally at the front of our minds.

Senator RICE: So it is a rolling review. What was implied in your response to the person who communicated with me was that there would be a broad review of the country pages.

Mr Philp : I would have to take on notice what we did about that particular answer. I think that is probably the fairest way to put it.

Senator RICE: In terms of, say, the review of the Indonesia pages and the review of Aceh, how long would you expect there to be a review given the change in circumstances in Indonesia with the arrest of the 120, or whatever it was, gay people in Jakarta recently as well as the caning in Aceh?

Mr Philp : I could not tell you off the top of my head when Indonesia is next to be reviewed. I would expect that next time we update it we will have some references to those events.

Senator RICE: When would that be?

Mr Philp : As I said, I cannot tell you off the top of my head, but we update travel advice in response to specific events. These days it is particularly in response to terrorist events, which affect all Australians, to political events. But something like that could well trigger it. I could undertake to you that we will certainly look at those pages within the next few weeks.

Senator RICE: Thank you.

Senator WONG: Thank you, Mr Fletcher.

Mr Fletcher : I can add to my answers from earlier regarding the press release that Minister Ciobo issued.

Senator WONG: Yes.

Mr Fletcher : It was prepared in the department. Two members of staff accompanied Minister Ciobo, one of whom was able to attend all of the sessions of the forum, and two officers from the embassy were also able to attend.

Senator WONG: In terms of Minister Ciobo's release, I just want to put two things to you just to confirm that they represent the government's position. First:

Australia supports the aims of initiatives such as Belt and Road that improve infrastructure development and increase investment opportunities in the Asia-Pacific region.

Mr Fletcher : Yes.

Senator WONG: The second one is a project-by-project approach:

Australians companies have significant expertise and experience in infrastructure construction, so I will working to identify projects for Australian businesses that address the serious infrastructure shortfalls in our region. These projects could be worth hundreds of billions of dollars over the next decade, and Australian private sector involvement in such projects will help create Australian jobs.

Mr Fletcher : Yes.

Senator WONG: Would a shorthand way of describing that be a sort of project-by-project assessment?

Mr Fletcher : Yes. We are very keen on projects and Australian companies having an opportunity to get contracts from such projects.

Senator WONG: Does that position reflect the sort of advice that the department has been providing the government with in respect of BRI?

Mr Fletcher : Yes. Australia has been talking to China about belt and road for a couple of years now at officials level and at ministerial level. It has been an initiative from the Chinese side that they take very seriously and we are open to examining what potential benefits we can get from it.

Senator WONG: I will go now to comments by former trade minister Robb, who also attended the forum and made some public comments reported on AAP and in a range of papers. The headline is 'Complacent Australians missing out. Andrew Robb worries Australians aren't seizing opportunities with China, believing the job is done because of the free trade deal.' I am not going to ask you to comment on that per se, but I am going to ask whether or not Mr Ciobo met with former trade minister Robb at the forum?

Mr Fletcher : I do not know that. I will take that on notice.

Senator WONG: Has Mr Robb met with the foreign minister since his retirement from parliament?

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

Senator WONG: Has Mr Robb met with officers of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, including overseas posts, since his departure from the parliament?

Mr Fletcher : We will take that on notice.

Senator WONG: Has Mr Robb, in any of those interactions, if there are any, encouraged what he might describe as a more constructive Australian approach to the BRI?

Mr Fletcher : We will include that as well.

Senator WONG: Mr Fletcher, have you heard Mr Robb? Are you aware of his views? He is quoted as stating that the 'government has got to pay more attention to the opportunities'.

Mr Fletcher : Yes.

Senator WONG: In which context have you heard him say that?

Mr Fletcher : I have seen his comments quoted in the media.

Senator WONG: Have those sentiments been expressed by Mr Robb in any meeting at which you have attended?

Mr Fletcher : No.

Senator WONG: How about you, Secretary?

Ms Adamson : I have had a couple of conversations with Mr Robb over the last eight or nine months or so and I am aware of his views on the value of the Belt and Road Initiative. In fact, he called me to let me know as a courtesy that he would be travelling to China late last year and taking a group of business people with him to look at those opportunities. He spoke to me after his return and gave me a brief account of the visit.

Senator WONG: Has Mr Robb been at meetings with ministers and members of the government which you have also attended?

Ms Adamson : No.

Senator WONG: Just very quickly on AIIB membership and the process of signing up, which I will not traverse again because I think it has been traversed previously, was there any review or pause for consideration of policy consequences of the reasonably slow adoption of membership of the AIIB?

Ms Adamson : The government's consideration of whether or not to join the AIIB, from the outset or indeed what we did—

Senator WONG: No, it is more—

Ms Adamson : —was informed by broad consideration of the relevant policy issues.

Senator WONG: No. I am sorry. I was not going to retraverse that. I understand many policy issues were considered. But I wondered post the decision to join whether or not DFAT had internally done an assessment of what was learnt through that process?

Ms Adamson : What do you mean by 'what was learnt'?

Senator WONG: Were there any consequences to the length of time and changes of position that characterised the government's decision to finally join the AIIB?

Ms Adamson : My own view, bearing in mind that I was ambassador in Beijing at the time, was that the government's action to stay out at the beginning in order to influence the governance arrangements and to join when it did was the correct course of action. Needless to say, that was consistent with the advice that I gave from Beijing.

Senator WONG: It is interesting that you choose to tell me on this occasion what your advice was.

Ms Adamson : I have not been asked before.

Senator WONG: No, that is not right. You occasionally say to me that I cannot ask about advice, but on this occasion you are happy to provide it.

Ms Adamson : You characterised the government's decision as having come very late from my perspective or having taken time. I do not agree with that characterisation.

Senator WONG: That is fair enough. I think others have a different view.

Ms Adamson : Of course.

Senator WONG: I am sure you have seen some public commentary.

Ms Adamson : There is a range of views.

Senator WONG: I was actually less interested in arguing about the merits or otherwise of it. You have a view which you have come to because of your own opinion. I am wondering as an organisation whether DFAT said, 'Let's have a think about how this process was managed.' Were there negative consequences or positive consequences to the way in which the decision was made? What learnings can be taken from it?

Ms Adamson : DFAT constantly—

Senator WONG: Do not give me a general. I am asking about this.

Ms Adamson : I was about to say we constantly seek to learn from what we do and to improve our performance. To my knowledge, there was no specific exercise of a kind that you describe. But, of course, that is an ongoing element of the advice that we provide to government and the way that we implement policy and it was something that we regularly did in the embassy in Beijing.

Senator WONG: You have advocated from the table the positive consequences of the delay in the decision and I assume, therefore, the way in which the decision was made. I note the messaging was somewhat inconsistent at times, but leaving that aside were there any negative consequences?

Ms Adamson : Not to my knowledge at the time, no, or indeed since.

Senator WONG: Chair, I have finished that topic, if you wanted to go to someone else.

CHAIR: I will go to Senator Singh, then Senator Ludlam and back to Senator Fawcett. Senator Singh.

Senator SINGH: Does DFAT agree that heads of mission overseas should refrain and be seen to be refraining from domestic partisanship and domestic politics?

Ms Adamson : All of our heads of mission are bound by the APS Code of Conduct and also by the DFAT Code of Conduct for Overseas Service. That obliges us as public servants to conduct ourselves in an impartial manner, yes.

Senator SINGH: Does the department know of any instances of these rules not being complied with by current HOMs?

Ms Adamson : I am not aware of any instances, but if you wish to provide further information I might be able to comment.

Senator SINGH: Does Ambassador Hockey in his current capacity as Australia's ambassador to the US often entertain guests in Washington DC?

Ms Adamson : All of our ambassadors overseas entertain as a regular part of their role.

Senator SINGH: Does he entertain people in both the ambassador's residence in DC as well as the chancery?

Ms Adamson : Yes. Some of our biggest missions have dining facilities or some means of offering hospitality in the mission and, as you point out, there is always the option to use the ambassador's residence.

Senator SINGH: What types of events does he host?

Ms Adamson : All of our ambassadors would host a range of events, depending upon the city and the nature of customs around hospitality. They could include breakfast, morning teas, lunches, afternoon teas, dinners, receptions or cultural events of varying sizes. I would imagine occasionally one-on-one lunches and sometimes quite big events no doubt involving hundreds of people.

Senator SINGH: What types of people are invited? Are members of the business community invited?

Ms Adamson : A wide range. Potentially guests could include a very wide range of people, including members of the business community. But typically also government officials and people involved in the cultural sphere. There would be a very wide range of people an active ambassador would be expected to entertain.

Senator SINGH: Who manages the invitations and determines who will be invited? What is the process?

Ms Adamson : Again, it varies from mission to mission. In big missions, there will often be a person who is designated to perform this role, often termed internally as a social secretary or someone who looks after those events. Often the ambassador's PA will be involved. All sections in the embassy; these things are often done on a whole-of-government basis or in conjunction with a particular section, depending on the nature of the event. Workloads can be shared, but obviously the ambassador and usually also residence staff could have involvement. It would depend. I emphasise that there is a very wide range of possibilities. If you ask a general question, that would be my answer.

Senator SINGH: Would it be possible to get a comprehensive list of events hosted by Ambassador Hockey in Washington DC since he has assumed his position?

Ms Adamson : We could provide you with a list more broadly. It depends on what level of detail you are looking at, but I am sure we could give you an indication of the broad areas of hospitality.

Senator SINGH: As comprehensive as you can make it.

Ms Adamson : Yes.

Senator SINGH: Does Ambassador Hockey ever host non-political, non-parliamentary, non-ministerial delegations or groups of Australian visitors in DC?

Ms Adamson : I am putting it in the negative. If I put it in the positive, I would expect there to be a very wide range of Australian delegations visiting Washington. They may potentially, depending on the nature of the delegation and their business and their interactions with US counterparts, receive hospitality.

Senator SINGH: Are there any relevant instances or individuals that you can share with the committee that he has hosted in that vein?

Ms Adamson : That is a very general question and not one that I can answer.

Senator SINGH: You can take it on notice. I asked previously for a list of attendees that he has hosted events for so perhaps—

Ms Adamson : If you are after a list of events, we can certainly provide that.

Senator SINGH: No. I asked for a comprehensive list of attendees at those events hosted by Ambassador Hockey.

Ms Adamson : We can provide you, broadly, with the information you are seeking but if you could be specific that might—

Senator SINGH: Maybe that list can also include non-political, non-parliamentary attendees.

Senator Brandis: Most would be. Are you talking about people that Mr Hockey has invited to events or functions?

Senator SINGH: Yes.

Ms Adamson : The ambassador would normally host, in the name of the ambassador, a very wide range of functions that might be suggested by other people in the embassy, other sections or whatever. It is not necessarily all driven by the ambassador. But if a proposal comes from the economics section, the trade section or the political section—say, there is a senior-level guest coming from Australia and we think it would be worth while inviting US guests or whoever to join them for a discussion on whatever—that could happen too. I am trying to explain it to you in broad terms, but if you have a specific question I will certainly do my best to answer it.

Senator SINGH: We will wait for the list that you have taken on notice.

Ms Adamson : I can provide a list of the events. Whether we have a list of all guests I cannot be certain, but we can provide a list of events.

Senator WONG: If we could do the events first.

Ms Adamson : We will do the events, because that is normally the level at which we provide information for this sort of response.

Mr Wood : We have previously provided information for The Washington Post under a freedom-of-information request and there are some details on the FOI disclosure log on the DFAT website.

Senator SINGH: Maybe it is more updating.

Senator WONG: Can they just be tabled? Can someone just print them?

Ms Adamson : My colleague Ms Mansfield has a contribution to make which may be helpful.

Senator WONG: Thank you.

Ms Mansfield : There has been, in a response to an FOI request, a number of those documents that have in fact been put on our FOI register. But typically while we have put the events and the costs and so on, we have tended not to put the lists of people who were actually invited to those events. There are issues around privacy and those sorts of things. We can certainly look at updating that for you, along the same lines as what we have done for the past seven or eight quarters worth of returns for the ambassador to Washington.

Senator SINGH: That would be helpful. Thank you.

Senator WONG: Are you going to table the FOI documents?

Ms Mansfield : It is on our register online.

Senator WONG: Sure, but if you could table them now we can look at them and we can ask questions.

Ms Mansfield : We can do that. We can print that off.

Senator SINGH: You are also taking on notice updating it; is that correct?

Ms Mansfield : Correct.

Senator SINGH: Is the department aware that Ambassador Hockey has two Twitter accounts?

Ms Adamson : I would have to ask our public diplomacy division.

Senator WONG: I think the answer is yes.

Senator SINGH: I can tell you the handles if you like. There is @JoeHockey and the other one is @AusAmbUSA.

Mr Byrne : My understanding is the latter account is Mr Hockey's Twitter account as ambassador and the former is his personal Twitter account.

Senator SINGH: They both say that he is ambassador. The @JoeHockey one says 'Australian Ambassador to the United States of America' and the other one is the @AusAmbUSA handle. It says the ambassador's primary Twitter account is now the Joe Hockey one, but it has still got this one as well. It has also got the embassy website on that @AusAmbUSA one. Which one are you saying is a private account?

Mr Byrne : My understanding is the @JoeHockey account is Mr Hockey's private Twitter account or personal Twitter account.

Senator SINGH: How is any member of public supposed to know that when it actually says @JoeHockey, 'Australian Ambassador to the United States of America'? It does not say, 'This is my private Twitter account' or 'All tweets from this account should be deemed private' or anything like that. It has also got the embassy website, the usa.embassy.gov.au website. It looks pretty public and in his role as ambassador to me.

Mr Byrne : I will defer to my colleague Mr Marcelo, who is more familiar with this issue than I am.

Mr Marcelo : Mr Hockey, when he became ambassador, took his personal handle with him. That has been the practice for several ambassadors who have been political appointees.

Senator SINGH: He has taken his personal handle with him, but it is not a personal Twitter account. It is an account of him as ambassador to the United States of America. It says it on there.

Mr Marcelo : That is right. He took his personal handle, which is @JoeHockey. And then, because he was appointed ambassador, he took his followers and that handle with him. He operates that as his ambassadorial account.

Senator SINGH: As his ambassadorial account?

Mr Marcelo : That is right.

Senator SINGH: Thank you very much. What does the department understand the different usages of these two accounts to be, just to be clear?

Mr Marcelo : The @AusAmbUSA account was an account set up by the embassy for the ambassador as an ambassadorial account. For Mr Hockey's own account, he has continued to operate that as the Australian ambassador. Other prominent appointees who have become ambassadors, since the department has taken on social media platforms have continued their personal handle. For example, I can think of Mr Rann, who took his personal following with him when he was appointed ambassador. Mr Beazley has adopted a similar position, if I recall.

Senator SINGH: Is the department aware that the ambassador is using his @JoeHockey account, his ambassador account, for partisan political messaging, such as, for example, a tweet on 26 May in which he comments on a Republican win in a safe Republican seat?

Senator Brandis: What does he say?

Senator SINGH: He states, 'The Republicans win a "federal byelection" in Montana pretty convincingly given the circumstances. This is sobering for many experts.'

Senator Brandis: He can make an observation on a political event that is occurring in America. I do not understand—

Senator SINGH: Is the department aware of that?

Senator Brandis: No, Senator Singh.

Senator SINGH: That was the question.

Senator Brandis: You say that is partisan, but you have now read it out at my request and there is nothing partisan about it at all. He is just commenting on a fact.

Senator SINGH: Is the department aware of that?

Mr Marcelo : I have seen that tweet and I have nothing to add to what the Attorney has said on that.

Senator SINGH: What was the purpose of Ambassador Hockey commenting on an American by-election?

Mr Marcelo : He would, like many ambassadors, reflect on events that take place in the areas of their accreditation. I will not offer a comment on what he was thinking. We would have to check with Ambassador Hockey.

Senator SINGH: Does DFAT think this is a normal degree of partisan commentary for a HOM to be engaging in?

CHAIR: It is an opinion. I do not think the officer would be expected to give an opinion.

Senator SINGH: I go back to the guidelines that Ms Adamson raised earlier.

Senator Brandis: Senator Singh

Senator SINGH: I am sorry, Senator Brandis, this is called Senate estimates and it is where those of us on this side ask the questions and you do the answering. You do not ask me questions.

Senator Brandis: I am seeking some clarification from you, because you have asserted wrongly that a tweet you read out was partisan when plainly it was not. I was merely asking you, if you wanted to make this point out, whether you had any other examples. If that is the only example you have, then the question is based on an entirely false premise.

Senator SINGH: It was partisan. I ask again. Firstly, Ms Adamson referred to strict rules and guidelines that DFAT Heads of Mission overseas are meant to abide by. I then asked if therefore it is a normal degree of operation that partisan commentary for a HOM be made in the way I have just referred to in relation to Ambassador Hockey.

Ms Adamson : I stand by the point about partisan commentary, but Senator Brandis has made a point. The particular post to which you refer, 'Sobering for many experts', I would see as a commentary on something that is happening in the United States. I would not regard it as a partisan act on the part of the ambassador.

Senator Brandis: Perhaps I am missing your point.

Senator SINGH: Thank you.

Senator Brandis: Senator Singh, perhaps I am missing your point. Could you perhaps explain what—

Senator SINGH: No, I am not answering questions from you.

Senator Brandis: What is it about the tweet that you say—

Senator SINGH: I am not answering questions from you. I am giving the questions and you are doing the answering. That is something that you need to learn about Senate estimates. That is the way it works. I thought, after the number of years you have been in this place, you would know that. Thank you, Chair.

Senator Brandis: Mr Chairman, if I may. The secretary, myself and the officer, all three respondents to the question, have indicated that they do not understand why it is said that this tweet is partisan. I was merely inviting Senator Singh to explain to us why she says that. If she refuses to explain, that is a matter for her.

CHAIR: Thank you very much. You made that invite. Senator Singh did not avail herself of it and that is perfectly her right. Senator Ludlam.

Senator LUDLAM: I have a couple of questions about Australia's overseas development assistance budget. Can we bring forward some folk who can speak about that?

Mr McDonald : Yes.

Senator LUDLAM: Firstly, I would like to know by way of overview whether the department quantifies in some way its overall assistance in any given financial year. We have a financial quantum of overseas development aid, but I am talking in terms of outcome. For example, is it possible to tell us how many children are sent to school thanks to Australia's aid? Are there any metrics such as that that you can bring to us?

Mr McDonald : We have the Performance of Australian aid report that we put out. I think it was put out in January of this year. It talks about our performance against the program, including some indicators like you have talked about. The answer would be, yes, we do have some of that information.

Senator LUDLAM: I do not have a copy of that report in front of me. For example, is there an overall number of people assisted through the aid program to any degree of approximation?

Mr McDonald : I do not have a copy in front of me, but we have had indicators like that in the past and they vary. It could be the number of children that go to school, for example. Mr Gilling might be able to help me on this version and whether that is incorporated.

Mr Gilling : The Performance of Australian aid report, which Mr McDonald mentioned, works through a whole range of different programs mentioning different outcomes. It does not aggregate across the entire program.

Senator LUDLAM: Can you give me that language again? How did you put that?

Mr Gilling : The Performance of Australian aid report reports at three different levels. It reports at the total level against the government's 10 strategic targets. That is the whole aid program, the whole $3.8 billion. Then the next level is at country level. So, 26 different country programs each year produce an annual report and that annual report talks about different areas of impact, which could indeed be children at school. It could be kilometres of roads. It could be numbers of health centres. Then we move down to the project level, where we talk about what individual projects have achieved. But the report itself does not attempt to aggregate across the program the numbers of kids or kilometres of roads.

Senator LUDLAM: Theoretically, it would be possible to do that. Somebody else would need to do that manually, as it were?

Mr Gilling : Yes, it would be possible.

Senator LUDLAM: So, there is not really any way of telling across the whole ODA portfolio longitudinally year to year how to judge the numbers of these kinds of indicators, whether it be health clinics or kids in schools, roads or whatever?

Mr Gilling : No. At the aggregate level of the whole program reporting is against the government's 10 strategic targets.

Mr McDonald : We also have a performance framework across any of our programs that is aggregated up every year and assessed through our independent evaluation committee. That is about the performance of the program overall against a set of ratings, which Mr Gilling can also elaborate on if you wish.

Senator LUDLAM: That is probably not a bad idea, just to step through at a high level how that is done.

Mr Gilling : As I said, at the highest level the government sets 10 strategic targets, which were set as part of the 2014 document Making performance count. If you would like, I can table them or I can talk through them.

Senator LUDLAM: Let us table them just because the committee is going to be short of time and other senators have questions. Thank you. I appreciate that.

Mr McDonald : There is one thing I would refer you to in that report, which I now have a copy of, on page 103. It is the statement for the independent evaluation committee chair, Jim Adams, who was the vice-president of the World Bank. He judges that Australia's aid performance management system is amongst the global best practice. That is their independent assessment of that performance framework.

Senator LUDLAM: Thank you. Page 102 of Budget Paper No. 2 tells us that the government has decided to make a $303.3 million saving from the overseas development aid portfolio. There is a certain amount of ambiguity as to how much of a cut that represents. I would like you to just spell it out and work through it with us now. What percentage reduction would that be in the 2019-20 and 2020-21 forward estimates as compared with what the budget would have been had ODA kept pace with the CPI, which was government policy as recently as February?

Mr Wood : As we have mentioned at previous estimates, we provided forecasts for the aid budget. Prior to this measure, the aid budget in 2019-20 was forecast to increase to $4.110 billion. Following the reduction of $100 million, it will remain at $4.010 billion. The aid budget was then forecast to increase to $4.213 billion and following this measure it will remain at $4.010 billion. It is the impact of the government's decision to maintain the level of ODA for those two years that delivers those two amounts of $100 million and $200 million.

Senator LUDLAM: So, $100 million in the second out year and $200 million in the third out year?

Mr Wood : Correct.

Senator LUDLAM: No changes to this forthcoming financial year?

Mr Wood : Correct. The aid budget increases $84 million in 2017-18 to $3.912 billion.

Senator LUDLAM: So, that brings Australia's overseas development aid to the lowest level as a proportion of gross national income ever?

Mr McDonald : It is the lowest GNI, at 0.22.

Senator LUDLAM: That is a disgrace.

Mr McDonald : But it is not the lowest in terms of volume of the program.

Senator LUDLAM: You mean in term of absolute financials?

Mr McDonald : Yes. The program is, as Mr Wood said, $3.912 billion next financial year and then increases to $4.010 billion the following year. In terms of volume of money it is not the lowest, but in terms of GNI it is the lowest since records were kept in 1974.

Senator LUDLAM: Yes. What an absolute disgrace that is. This goes back to the questions that I led with at the outset. Is it going to be possible to provide any kind of estimate against the various benchmarks and reporting mechanisms that you were outlining a short time ago as to how many fewer people our aid program will be assisting compared with what was projected as recently as February? Who wants to take that one? How many fewer kids in schools? How many fewer clinics? How many fewer kilometres of road are we looking at?

Mr McDonald : At the moment, our program is $3.828 billion. It will be increasing. We will be increasing our assistance over the forward estimates in terms of our funding and, therefore, our contribution. It is not a reduction.

Senator LUDLAM: It is a $300 million cut based on what was in the last budget paper.

Mr McDonald : Yes, it is $300 million.

Senator LUDLAM: Let us not play around with words.

Mr McDonald : No. It is a $300 million saving, I agree, but I am saying for next financial year the program is growing from where it is today. Therefore, it will be assisting more people, as it will the following year.

Senator LUDLAM: In January 2014 the minister said, 'From 2014-15 the $5 billion aid budget will grow each year in line with the CPI', and that policy appears to have been junked. This might be one for you, Senator Brandis. Why is that the case?

Senator Brandis: Mr McDonald has explained the position. Portfolios have been asked to find savings to bring the budget back into balance. This portfolio is not exempt from that.

Senator LUDLAM: Defence appears to be.

Senator Brandis: If I may finish without being interrupted. As Mr McDonald has explained, the funding will increase over the period of the forward estimates beyond 2017-18.

Mr McDonald : Yes. The budget will increase from what it is today, $3.828 billion, to over the forward estimates $4.010 billion.

Senator LUDLAM: I think the minister described it as a freeze.

Mr McDonald : No. I will have to check the wording, but the budget increases I think by at least CPI or a little more than CPI next financial year and then the following year. Then there is a pause for two years—I think that is the term—and then it starts to grow again.

Senator LUDLAM: In terms of the pause, 2019-20 and 2020-21, those years are safely the other side of the next federal election. If there is a change of government, I guess there is a potential that in fact these cuts would not come into effect. That is something of an incentive, is it not, Senator Brandis?

Senator Brandis: Governments in Australia, as you know, are elected for three-year terms.

Senator LUDLAM: It is just good to know.

Mr Wood : Budget Paper No. 2 also notes that indexation will recommence in 2021.

Senator LUDLAM: Unless you change your minds again. On what basis of confidence should we take what is written in this budget paper when what you have been saying since 2014 turned out not to be worth the paper it was printed on?

Senator Brandis: Senator Ludlam.

Senator LUDLAM: Why should we believe a single thing that this government says about what may or may not happen in 2021?

Senator Brandis: The budget, as you know, projects expenditure over a four-year period across the forward estimates.

Senator LUDLAM: It does.

Senator Brandis: But the parliamentary term is less than four years. Plainly within every set of forward estimates there will be the possibility of a change of government at an election. I do not quite understand your point. Are you criticising the fact that we project over the forward estimates? That is what you seem to be doing.

Senator LUDLAM: I am criticising the fact that the statement that the minister made in 2014 managed to be completely worthless. That is why I am wondering why we should bother paying any attention to your projections for 2021.

Senator Brandis: Budgets are prepared one budget at a time, as you know, depending on the fiscal circumstances and policy priorities of the time.

Senator LUDLAM: Indeed. Can we go to the specific programs that will be affected as a result of these cuts, this $300 million that would have been put to work, most of it in our region, that now will not? What will the impacts be? Be as specific as you able.

Mr McDonald : As I said earlier, the budget is increasing next financial year and the following financial year and we program on the budgets that we have going forward. There are no reductions of our existing programs. It is just that we now have a set of projections into the forward estimates—an increase of $84 million next financial year followed by an increase of $98 million the following year. That is what we are projecting into the pipeline of programs that we will be building over the next forward estimates. There is no reduction, because the envelope of funding at the moment is funding programs that are already in place.

Senator LUDLAM: You have managed to make a $300 million cut sound as though it will not affect anybody at all. What would have been done with this money?

Mr McDonald : I was not saying that it would not affect anybody. I was just saying what we were going to cut.

Senator LUDLAM: Who will it affect? We can play around with the words if you like. Who would be affected?

Mr McDonald : The development assistance budget, as you know, supports developing countries in relation to the priorities that we have set both under the Australian government policy and also the needs and priorities of the developing countries. All I am saying is, when we forecast out to our pipeline of programs going forward, we take account of what that funding envelope is going forward. I cannot be more specific. We have over 1,000 programs in place.

Senator LUDLAM: I understand. I suspect I am about to get the windup from the chair.

Senator Brandis: The other point to be borne in mind is that you cannot just look at a funding decision in a budget within the portfolio or within the broad area of a particular portfolio. You say, 'Where is the $300 million going?'

Senator LUDLAM: I have not asked that yet.

Senator Brandis: The $300 million is going elsewhere because the government has other priorities too.

Senator LUDLAM: Yes. I have not asked that. Thank you for answering a question that I had not yet asked.

Senator Brandis: I thought that is what you were getting at.

Senator LUDLAM: No. I want to know who has been affected and who will not be funded.

Senator Brandis: The people who will be affected will be Australians who will be the beneficiaries of $300 million being spent in other areas of the budget which would not otherwise be available.

Senator LUDLAM: Like joint strike fighters?

Senator Brandis: Or schools funding.

Senator LUDLAM: My final question—and then I will come back a little bit later in the afternoon—is this: I am presuming you understand that if you freeze a particular budget line item it then begins to decline in real terms. Effectively our foreign aid budget in those out years, 2019-21, will be declining in real terms.

Mr McDonald : Yes, I understand that.

Senator LUDLAM: I just wanted to make it absolutely crystal clear. Thank you, Chair. I will come back a bit later.

Mr McDonald : Just before we finish on this, I think you asked me about the language the foreign minister used to describe this.

Senator LUDLAM: Yes, I did.

Mr McDonald : I would like to quote from her media release, where she states, 'The aid budget will increase to $4.01 billion in 2018-19 and be maintained at that level for the following two years.'

Senator LUDLAM: She did not use the word 'freeze'. I withdraw that.

Mr McDonald : No, she did not use the word 'freeze'. The word was 'maintained'.

Senator LUDLAM: Thank you for that clarification.

CHAIR: Senator Wong.

Senator WONG: I would like to continue on the aid budget. If I could just make sure, first, that the baseline of numbers is agreed. The profile out to 2021-22, prior to the budget measure, in 2017-18 was $3.912 billion and in 2018-19 it was $4.010 billion. I think you said it was $4.113 billion in 2019-20.

Mr Wood : For question on notice 15 from the last estimates we gave you the estimates up to 2019-20.

Senator WONG: Just give me 2019-20.

Mr Wood : For 2019-20 it was $4.110 billion.

Senator WONG: And then 2020-21 was going to be?

Mr Wood : And 2020-21, which we did not give you because it was not within the forward estimates, was going to be $4.213 billion.

Senator WONG: Are you going to give me the 2021-22 figure?

Mr Wood : No. I do not know that. That is beyond the forward estimates. I was just referring to the measure description, which said indexation would recommence in 2021-22.

Senator WONG: Essentially what this measure does, what this reduction in funding does, which is a reduction in real terms, is reduce 2019-20 to $4.010 billion?

Mr Wood : Correct.

Senator WONG: And 2020-21 also to $4.010 billion?

Mr Wood : Correct. As the major description states, it maintains the level at 2018-19.

Senator WONG: It freezes it for three years, effectively?

Mr Wood : It maintains that, yes.

Senator WONG: Is the policy position currently that it reverts for the 2021-22 year a 2.5 per cent indexation?

Mr Wood : I do not know. I can just refer to the language in the major description. I think it is indexation.

Senator WONG: Hang on. You gave evidence at the last estimates that the government's policy position is CPI. Until this measure the government's policy position was that ODA would be indexed to CPI, and CPI was 2.5 per cent.

Mr Wood : At the time of the decision.

Senator WONG: At the time you gave it?

Mr Wood : Yes. Obviously, CPI has changed from that initial measure.

Senator WONG: Is the government's position still, leaving aside the pause, that ODA will be indexed by CPI?

Mr Wood : I cannot answer for the government's position. I was just referring to the language in Budget Paper No. 2, which referred to indexation commencing then.

Senator WONG: What is the government's position? You may need to get some advice about that. You gave me very clear evidence in March that the indexation rate that was applicable before this budget measure was a CPI rate and we had a long discussion about the fact that 2.5 per cent had been chosen as the rate. I want to know, after the pause—I will use your language so we do not have an argument—is it the government's policy position that indexation reverts to the CPI rate?

Mr Wood : I would like to take that on notice to give you a precise answer. As I have said, the measure description refers to indexation recommencing.

Senator WONG: This is a question for Mr McDonald or the secretary, frankly. This is a policy question. You do the numbers as per the budget and as per how things are allocated, but what is the policy position? Does it revert back to a CPI indexation rate or is it not yet determined?

Ms Adamson : The government has not yet enunciated publicly the policy position about which you are seeking advice.

Senator WONG: The measure description states that the 'government will achieve savings of $303.3 million over two years by maintaining the level of ODA funding from 2019-20 with indexation to recommence at 2021-22.' Are you now telling me the government has not yet made a decision as to what that indexation will be?

Ms Adamson : No, I am not saying that.

Senator WONG: What are you saying?

Ms Adamson : I said that the government had not publicly enunciated, but if it is there in the paper that is a public enunciation of it.

Senator WONG: It is a reasonable estimates question to know what 'indexation to recommence in 2021-22' as identified in the measure means.

Mr McDonald : As Mr Woods said, we would prefer to take that on notice and be correct, but my—

Senator WONG: How do you—

Mr McDonald : Can I finish, if I can?

Senator WONG: Yes, of course.

Mr McDonald : I am trying to help not hinder.

Senator WONG: I am frustrated, because I do not know how you do your budgets if you do not know what money you are going to get in the out years, given that you have multiyear projects that you are committing to.

Mr McDonald : We always budget over the forward estimates, which is what this is showing. We know the funding up to the end of forward estimates, which is $4.010 billion, as Mr Woods said. But what the wording says is 'recommence indexation' in the budget papers here. That would be my expectation. I will clarify that and confirm that for you.

Senator WONG: You are the department that deals with this budget. How are you finding it so difficult to tell me what the words 'recommence indexation' mean? Is that because government has not—

Mr Wood : I think we are all in agreement. We are just not quite sure on what the actual quantum would be. Generally, as you know with parameters we are given that information centrally.

Senator WONG: Yes. I understand that and CPI may move. Right?

Mr Wood : Yes, correct.

Senator WONG: I accept that you may not be able to give me the nominal figure, because you might not know what the CPI figure will be then. That is fair enough. Is it still the policy position indexation to CPI?

Senator Brandis: That is the question: does indexation mean indexation to CPI?

Senator WONG: Which is what your previous policy position has been.

Senator Brandis: Yes, I understand that. I get that. Although this is not exactly my area of portfolio responsibility, I would expect the answer is, yes, where the expression 'indexation' is used. Particularly as Mr McDonald points out to me, the verb that is used is 'recommence' so that—

Senator WONG: Except this is not in passing, with respect.

Senator Brandis: No, it is not.

Senator WONG: We just have to work out what the numbers are.

Senator Brandis: Just bear with me. This is not a criticism of you, I promise, but it is a bit of an artificial argument when indexation is a projection to a future value, depending on whatever the baseline is, but we know what the actual numbers are—

Senator WONG: No, you do not.

Senator Brandis: If I may finish, please. We know what the actual numbers are in the forward estimates because they are there.

Senator WONG: But you do not understand the question. You are talking about something different.

Senator Brandis: Beyond the forward estimates, as I understand you, you want to know whether the use of the word 'indexation' means beyond the forward estimates indexation to CPI will continue, which is what I understand the PBS to say.

Senator WONG: No. BP2 states 'with indexation to recommence in 2021-22'.

Senator Brandis: Yes.

Senator WONG: When that indexation recommences, is it the government's policy position that that indexation will be at CPI or has there been a change?

Senator Brandis: We will take that on notice, but I am reasonably confident that the answer is the former particularly because of the use of the word 'recommence'.

Senator WONG: That is fine, but as I said—

Senator Brandis: It is implying, as it necessarily does, to reinstate the status quo ante.

Senator WONG: Which is why I find it interesting that the department is not able to answer it, because it is not an exercise in passing in legal construction.

Senator Brandis: No.

Senator WONG: You either have a policy position that you index at CPI or you do not.

Senator Brandis: As you know, I represent the minister here.

Senator WONG: Yes.

Senator Brandis: It is my reading, not in a pedantic way but in the ordinary meaning of that not very complicated sentence, that when it speaks of recommencing indexation in 2021-22 that is an intended reference to a resumption or a restoration of indexation in the manner in which it applied prior to this pause; in other words, indexation at CPI.

Senator WONG: That is a very long way of saying yes.

Senator Brandis: However, out of abundant caution, we will take the question on notice.

Senator WONG: Is it possible to come back with that very simple information before the end of the hearing?

Senator Brandis: Yes. I do not want to set some hares running here, so we will make an inquiry and we will get back to you.

Senator WONG: Thank you. Mr Wood, was the 2016-17 figure still $3.828 billion?

Mr Wood : Correct.

Senator WONG: Just remind me what the indexation rate or the growth rate between 2016-17 and 2017-18 was?

Mr Wood : The increase from 2016-17 to 2017-18 is $84 billion. Eight-four over $3.828 billion I think is about 2.2 per cent.

Senator WONG: It is 2.2 per cent, which is lower than the 2.5 per cent we discussed last time. Was that because a different indexation was applied?

Mr Wood : No. The $3.828 billion had some extra ODA added to it.

Senator WONG: Can we just finish this before—

Senator Brandis: I have the answer to the other one.

Senator WONG: I know, but I will finish this question before we come back.

Mr Wood : I recall there was a decision taken in prior years for there to be additional ODA, which meant that the ODA budget in 2016-17 went to $3.828 billion.

Senator WONG: But you told me at the last estimates 2.5 per cent was the indexation rate and you have applied a lower one to a higher base.

Mr Wood : No. When the decision was implemented—

Senator WONG: Which decision?

Mr Wood : This was the decision going back to the 2014-15 budget. There was a proxy used of 2.5 per cent.

Senator WONG: Given that, why is the growth rate between 2016-17 and 2017-18 only 2.2 per cent?

Mr Wood : Because as I said, there was a decision taken to provide some additional ODA in a prior year, which meant that the 2016-17 budget had additional ODA. So, that ended up being slightly higher.

Senator WONG: So, the government applied a lower indexation rate in order to generate the same outcome for 2017-18?

Mr Wood : No.

Senator WONG: Maybe we are at cross-purposes.

Mr Wood : Yes.

Senator WONG: I have asked you twice. You told me previously there would be 2.5 per cent indexation. You have agreed that the 2016-17 to 2017-18 year is about a 2.1 per cent or 2.2 per cent indexation rate.

Mr Wood : Yes.

Senator WONG: I have asked why it is a lower rate and you said it was essentially because 2016-17 is higher. So, therefore, you have applied a lower indexation rate to get to the 2017-18 year. Maybe it is a sequence thing. Shall I try it this way?

Mr Wood : Yes.

Senator WONG: You set the forward estimates figures, which include a 2017-18 rate of $3.912 billion, reflected a 2.5 per cent increase from 2016-17. But during the course of the year you added to the 2016-17 expenditure? Is that what happened?

Mr Wood : When the forward estimates were set, going back to 2014-15, there was a calculation that each year the aid budget would increase by 2.5 per cent per annum. So, the aid budget from 2017-18 to 2018-19, for instance, increases by 2.5 per cent. There was a decision taken in a previous year—which may have been 2015-16 but we can confirm—where there was some additional ODA that was added to that original amount, which meant that the $3.828 billion was slightly higher. It may have initially been something like $3.816 billion.

Senator WONG: Yes, but you did not adjust subsequent years to reflect the higher base?

Mr Wood : We did not adjust it.

Senator WONG: Correct.

Mr Wood : I think we got there.

Senator WONG: Yes, we got there. In other words, you said, 'We might have spent a bit more on this year, but we are not going to flow that through subsequent years and so we will adjust by a lower indexation rate and achieve the same forward estimates figures as we did before we added to the expenditure in 2016-17'?

Mr Wood : That is correct.

Senator WONG: So, it goes 2.2 per cent, then 2.5 per cent and then 2.5 per cent over that forward estimates period before this measure?

Mr Wood : Yes. I think we got there, yes.

Senator Brandis: Senator Wong, I can give you the answer. It is as I thought. I have confirmed with the foreign minister's office that that sentence in the PBS is to be read to be understood that there will be an increase from 2021, I think it is, in line with CPI. So, the indexation will be in line with CPI.

Senator WONG: In answer to Senator Ludlam you said, 'There's no reduction so we don't need to cut', but there is a reduction from what was previously anticipated of $303 million. I will ask his question in a different way. In order to give effect to the $303 million saving, has there had to be any change to value, scope or quantum of any committed or contracted project?

Mr Wood : No.

Senator WONG: How have you managed it?

Mr Wood : Essentially it has been taken out of forecast growth of the aid program. We have not as a result of the budget measure had to cancel or cease any contracts. As you would have seen from some of the information we have previously tabled, all of the forward estimates are not taken up with—

Senator WONG: You have a margin?

Mr McDonald : Not yet programmed.

Senator WONG: So not yet programmed. That is what you call it. What is your not yet programmed amount? Do you do it by percentage?

Mr Wood : We do it by both dollars and percentage.

Senator WONG: How much is it?

Mr Wood : Once it gets out to the end of the forward estimates it is quite substantial. It will be in the billions of dollars.

Senator WONG: How much do you retain? Do you have a minimum?

Mr Wood : No. Once we get into the financial year, we like to have the budget obviously fully allocated and programs then commit and contract that.

Senator WONG: But when you fully allocate, do you maintain a margin for error, an overrun amount?

Mr Wood : No, we do not. You may recall going back several years there used to be an ODA contingency reserve.

Senator WONG: Correct.

Mr Wood : We do not have anything that operates like that.

Senator WONG: There is no contingency reserve anymore?

Mr Wood : No.

Senator WONG: While we are waiting, are you able to table the updated tables of the DFAT country and regional programs and the one you do by region?

Mr Wood : Thank you. Yes. I can table two documents regarding activity approval amounts, committed amounts across the forward estimate and a second document, which is DFAT country and regional programs for the 2016-17 financial year.

Senator WONG: Can we go to GNI? In answer to a question from me, question on notice 110, you confirmed the GNI figures over the then forward estimates. Can you please update those in light of the budget measure?

Mr McDonald : It is 0.22 next financial year and 0.22 the following year. It is 0.21 the following year and 0.20 the following year.

Senator WONG: So, 2017-18 is 0.22; 2018-19 is 0.22; 2019-20 is 0.21; and 2020-21 is 0.20?

Mr McDonald : That is correct.

Senator WONG: Have we ever before been at 0.20 of GNI?

Mr McDonald : Not since records have been kept, as I said earlier, from 1974.

Senator WONG: So, this is the lowest proportion of our national income being provided for international development assistance since records began?

Mr McDonald : That is correct and, as I said earlier, it is not the lowest in terms of volume of funding.

Senator WONG: Yes, nominal; nor is our GDP. Our GDP is different and our GNI is different. Are you able to give me GNI projections beyond the forward estimates?

Mr McDonald : No.

Senator WONG: Just because you do not want to?

Mr McDonald : No.

Mr Wood : We are not the experts. It is something that we could—

Senator WONG: You are, Mr Wood. You definitely are.

Mr McDonald : No, we had this discussion last time.

Senator WONG: I know, but I try my luck.

Mr McDonald : And we tried to articulate why we do not do that.

Senator WONG: There is no government policy that sets a floor on ODA as a percentage of GNI, is there? I should say that government policy does not set a floor or a minimum on our GNI contribution?

Mr McDonald : No, there is no policy on that.

Senator WONG: Essentially, if government continue to make decisions to pause, which is essentially an effective reduction because of what happens to GNI, unless Australia's income goes down—and touch wood that does not happen—we would continue to see a reduction in our GNI contribution, correct?

Mr McDonald : That would be correct, although I note that, as I mentioned earlier, the budget measure mentioned that it would recommence.

Senator WONG: Yes, we have had a lot of discussion on that. You would also agree—and I think we had a conversation about this—that if the indexation rate is less than the growth in national income per year then as a matter of mathematics we will continue to reduce in our generosity as a proportion of GNI?

Mr Wood : That is likely to be the case, yes. We had a discussion last time about numerators and denominators, yes.

Senator WONG: Yes. It is a long time since I had to worry about them. Back to my question on notice 110. Are you able to update paragraph (d)? You gave me the aid budget decrease between 2012-13 and 2016-17. Are you able to update that figure between 2012-13 and the present, both in percentage terms and UCV terms? You might have to take that on notice.

Mr Wood : I might have to take it on notice.

Senator WONG: Yes. Do you know what I am saying to you?

Mr Wood : Yes.

Senator WONG: So, give me (d). I am just trying to get the reduction using 2012-13 as the baseline.

Mr Wood : Yes.

Senator WONG: So, the reduction is almost a quarter. We have lost almost a quarter of the aid budget as between 2012-13 and now, and I would just like the updated figure.

Mr Wood : The short answer is, yes.

Senator WONG: Thank you, and a nominal figure as well.

Mr Wood : Yes.

Senator WONG: As a policy question, Mr McDonald, given that we have reduced our aid budget by, on your own figures, at least 24.2 per cent since the 2012-13 budget, do you have any concerns about the impact of this reduction on recipient nations?

Senator Brandis: Is that a question seeking the officer's opinion?

Senator WONG: I can understand why you do not want him to answer it.

Senator Brandis: No, that is not right. I am just a stickler for the rules, as you know. It is just that asking the officer to express an opinion on what you yourself have said is a policy matter I do not think is fair. That is the reason the rule exists.

Senator WONG: So, you do not want him to answer?

Senator Brandis: That is not what I said and you know it is not what I said.

Senator WONG: I have asked him.

Senator Brandis: I am inviting the chair to rule that that was a question for an opinion on a policy matter.

CHAIR: Which it is, Senator Wong, as you know, but it was a good try.

Senator WONG: Have you provided any advice to government about the consequences of the scale of reduction of Australia's ODA program for both recipient nations and also for Australia's interests?

Mr McDonald : In relation to the ODA budget, yes, we have provided advice to government. In relation to the decisions of the government about the budget, we provide advice on how to implement that decision. The answer to that would be, yes.

Senator WONG: Is there any consequence for Australia's influence in the region as a result of the in excess of $11 billion reduction in ODA since 2012-13?

Senator Brandis: Mr Chairman, that is exactly the same.

Senator WONG: That is a factual question. It is the consequence.

Senator Brandis: That is exactly the same question slight more carefully disguised—

Senator WONG: That is a factual question.

Senator Brandis: It is seeking an opinion from the officer about a policy matter.

Senator WONG: What are the consequences? What has happened in the region as a consequence of us reducing our aid by in excess of $11 billion? I put it to you: is there not substantially more activity from other nations in terms of donor activity in our region?

Mr McDonald : Australia still remains the major donor within the region. We have over 90 per cent of our country program expenditure in the region. We have aid investment plans with all of those countries in relation to aligning our support with their priorities. From my point of view, we are very engaged in the region on our development in terms of both the dialogue we have and the reliance that those countries have on us. From my point of view, we have, as you know, over the last few years maintained our bilateral program within the Pacific countries. We have also this year maintained and increased the regional program in the Pacific. In terms of the funding, that is one aspect. The other aspect is how effectively you use that funding and I think we are well regarded for the approach we take to align that expenditure with the relevant government priorities. The other thing I would say is that the Australian aid is very transparent in terms of both the expectations we have around the delivery or mutual obligations of our partners, and we report that quite widely, as I said earlier, in relation to the material that we put out. From my point of view, in answering your question, we still have a very positive relationship with countries within our region.

Senator GALLACHER: In respect of New Guinea, was there a suggestion that if we did not provide aid for APEC or if our programs would diminish that China would simply make up the shortfall?

Mr McDonald : That is not something I am aware of. From my point of view, no. We have not been reducing our expenditure in PNG. We have been maintaining it, including our responsibilities around the joint understanding.

Senator GALLACHER: So, you are not aware of that commentary?

Mr McDonald : I am not personally aware.

Mr Wood : Our bilateral aid to PNG has been maintained and, as we say in our aid documentation, over 65 per cent of their ODA comes from Australia.

Senator WONG: I will try to wrap up quickly. I know Senator Moore has lots of questions. When did the department become aware of the budget decision that the ODA budget would be reduced? It is reduced from what it was, so let us not get into that. When did you become aware?

Mr McDonald : We will have to check the exact date that we became aware of the—

Mr Wood : It was during the budget process. Obviously, we receive the cabinet minutes the week before budget. It was during the budget process.

Senator WONG: When did the foreign minister become aware?

Mr McDonald : I cannot answer that.

Senator WONG: Perhaps that can be taken on notice.

Mr McDonald : We can take it on notice.

Senator WONG: Was the foreign minister present at the meeting at which the decision was made to reduce the ODA budget?

Mr McDonald : Again, I cannot answer that question. I would have to take that on notice.

Senator WONG: Thank you. Very quickly, as to the changes to the definition of ODA—we discussed this earlier and I asked if we could get some sense of how that has been given effect to across the budget. Mr McDonald, how do you want to deal with this?

Mr McDonald : Can I start, and Mr Wood will talk a little bit about the definition and how we collect our funding around that. Mr Exell can certainly provide some information on our programs, which I think you are also interested in.

Senator WONG: We do not have a lot of time. I am actually interested in some dollar figures.

Mr McDonald : If I could start to give you some context on this, because I think it is important. That decision was taken in February 2016. As I said yesterday, we were part of that discussion at the Development Assistance Committee. The collection of data under the Development Assistance Committee is annual. Since 2016 I think Mr Woods has been educating departments about what they could now count under the ODA budget going forward. We do not have that data for that year, because of the lag that comes with that, but we do have some programs specifically within our department that would be able to inform you about that.

Senator WONG: So, you can tell me about what, within DFAT, can now be counted towards ODA as a result of the OECD DAC changes, but you cannot tell me as yet across government what that will be?

Mr Wood : Mr McDonald is correct. If I could just note now, and maybe we could table this later, we have had in total 11 meetings with agencies, including the Attorney-General's Department, the Australian Federal Police, the Department of Defence and the Department of Immigration and Border Protection. This has been over a period of about 18 months. We have discussed the new definition and the directive. We will be working with those agencies to identify any activities for the 2016 calendar year that we will report in 2017. It is fair to say in some cases those agencies do not expect that they will have anything that would meet the criteria. One of the key issues with this definition, as highlighted in the communique from the OEC DAC, is that the primary purpose of ODA has to remain, which is the promotion of the economic development and welfare of a developing country. From the communique, you will note that it highlights the fact that for work that is done to counter perceived threats, the donor country cannot be counted as ODA. There are continuing consultations with those agencies to determine what can meet that ODA eligibility criteria.

Senator WONG: What is the timeframe? I do not want to waste time on this. You have not yet rolled that out. You will include it in the report that you will provide this year for the 2016 calendar year. What is the timeframe for the collation and reporting of that?

Mr Wood : It would be in the second half of this calendar year. I would probably say more towards the end of 2017, but it will be in 2017.

Senator WONG: Do I bother putting a question on notice asking, 'Can you give it to me when you have got it'?

Mr Wood : We always appreciate questions on notice from you. So, we can do that.

Senator WONG: The secretary laughed just a little too loudly then.

Mr Wood : We will answer it as best we can and then at the October estimates we will help you.

Senator WONG: Let us come back to it then, because I do not want to spend time on it. How much in DFAT is now in that was not in?

Mr Exell : Also to answer one other question that you asked yesterday, the framework that the minister announced, development approaches to countering violent extremism, earlier this year did not give guidance on the ODA eligibility as that was defined by the DAC. The intent of that note was really to inform DFAT officials working in this area about how to do it well, the kinds of issues they should look at and the kind of care that we should be taking.

Senator WONG: What note?

Mr McDonald : This is the policy announced in February.

Mr Exell : You asked yesterday about the policy that the minister—

Senator WONG: Yes, but you mentioned a note. What note?

Mr McDonald : Yes. I am sorry. It is a policy.

Mr Exell : It is the framework policy.

Senator WONG: Yes, I know. She gave a speech where she talked about it. I know that.

Mr Exell : Then it was released publicly on the website. That was because we knew it was an area of interest from a range of parties about how we were going about this. In terms of specific funding there has been $1.5 million provided to the Global Community Engagement and Resilience Fund, GCERF, a global public-private partnership which supports local community-led initiatives aimed at strengthening resilience against violent extremism.

Senator WONG: How much is that?

Mr Exell : It is $1.5 million.

Senator WONG: So this is all part of the same?

Mr Exell : That is one activity. That is part of a broader commitment of $3 million to that organisation. The first half of that was paid before the ODA ruling so it will not be counted. It is just the second half. The Asia Foundation will receive $250,000 to conduct research and develop guidance on best practices to better guide our aid spending in CVE in Asia and then finally, a small amount of funding for discrete, carefully selected and locally initiated CVE projects with partners in Asia. We do not want to go into the details of those projects.

Senator WONG: That is fine.

Mr Exell : In short, there are around five activities across Asia and including those two activities I have already defined the total is less than $5 million.

Senator WONG: So it is less than $5 million, including the $1.5 million?

Mr Exell : Correct.

Senator WONG: So not that much within DFAT?

Mr Exell : At this stage.

Senator WONG: And you will provide some information about the cross-portfolio reporting?

Mr Wood : Yes.

Senator WONG: Thank you.

CHAIR: Senator Fawcett.

Senator FAWCETT: Congratulations in saying you welcome questions on notice. You almost kept a straight face. I was very impressed.

Mr Wood : It helps that we have the same initials so when a request comes out saying, 'PW has asked for this' they will think it was from me.

Mr McDonald : He was, of course, talking on his own behalf.

Senator WONG: They only call me PW.

Senator FAWCETT: I see the distancing you are doing there, Mr McDonald, so I will hopefully get you to be able to answer the questions for me. In terms of the delivery of our ODA, one of the things that I am most concerned about is our delivery to individual country programs which is directly impacting on the wellbeing of people that we are seeking to assist. Can you talk about the delivery of our country programs over the forward estimates and whether they have been maintained or increased and the key focus areas for them?

Mr McDonald : Yes. I am very happy to talk through that. As I said earlier, in relation to the budget for next year all country programs have been pretty much maintained and those that have been adjusted, for example Fiji, where we put a significant amount of funding in for the cyclone, next year I think it has got a small proportion of a bit over $5 million in it. So we have maintained those country programs. We have also increased our humanitarian budget significantly from $339 million to $399 million. That is important in terms of some of the issues that we were talking about yesterday, particularly around Syria, Iraq and Africa, in relation to some of the protracted crises that are going on. So it is a significant increase there.

The emergency fund is now going to be $150 million. You will know from the commencement of this government it was $90 million, so that is a significant increase in the emergency fund. That whole humanitarian area has been a big focus for us.

We have also increased the regional programs as part of this next budget. So, again, that will provide the opportunity to expand, particularly in the Pacific, which has the most significant increase there.

We have also increased our funding to our NGOs for next year in terms of the work they do through the Australian NGO program and also for our volunteers. As you know, volunteers do a fantastic job in relation to the work they do on the ground in supporting countries within our region. Again, that will increase probably by around 100 from what we have now. We have about 1,300. There is good news in terms of what we can do with the increase in the budget. It is also maintaining what is there and this is particularly important for the Pacific, that we have been able to maintain that funding over the last few years. That certainty helps with the effectiveness that we have of the program going forward. That is the sort of focus. In terms of individual countries, we can go through those with you as you wish during the afternoon around the specific priorities.

The other point I would make in the Pacific is climate has been a big point in terms of disaster risk reduction—climate change. That has been a big focus, particularly with the Prime Minister's announcement of $1 billion over five years and, of course, Australia's contribution through the Green Climate Fund and our chairing of that where we have had about $250 million of projects now approved into the Pacific in the last 12 to 18 months.

Senator FAWCETT: You mentioned the word 'effectiveness' and that is one of my key concerns, particularly in the health area and education, associated with things like wash water and sanitation. Could you just talk about some of the measures that we are taking to ensure the effective spending of funds, particularly in the Pacific, in those areas of education and health?

Mr McDonald : I have some people assisting me, which is great. In terms of education and health, I might ask Mr Exell and Mr Gilling to help me out on that.

Mr Gilling : Thank you for the question. I mentioned to Senator Ludlam earlier about the way that we measure performance and measure effectiveness. I think it is very important that the minister set down, in 2014, the commitment to making performance count, the principle being that without information about performance it is hard for us to improve. At around the start of the year each of our projects worth over $3 million undertake what is called an annual quality check and that quality check ranks the performance of the programs on a range of criteria: sustainability, gender, efficiency and effectiveness. If the projects are deemed to not be performing and specifically if they are deemed not to be fully effective and not to be efficient, they are given one year to improve. If they do not improve then they will be closed at the discretion of my position. If there is a particular reason that they might not be performing, for example, a natural disaster, they can be extended. That is the principle that we are following.

So, this year we would have done well over 400 of those exercises to look at every single one of our major activities and assess what their performance is. These are recorded, both in this review here, the Performance of Australian Aid report, which was published a few weeks ago, and also in the annual program performance reports for each of 26 bilateral programs. These are freely available on the internet, so they are available to the public. They talk about the performance and the basis of our performance.

Mr McDonald : I could add to that, the other important part of effectiveness is the capability and quality of our staff. That is one area that the secretary and I have had many discussions about since the secretary's commencement. I am not sure if the secretary wishes to add to that.

Ms Adamson : I would like to. As the aid budget grows to $4.010 billion in 2018-19 we will obviously need strong staff capability to continue to deliver a high performing program and I am absolutely committed to maintaining and nurturing that capability. We recently launched, through our international development faculty within the department's diplomatic academy, which is where we do our training, and that will help us build a deep pool of staff with requisite skills. Obviously we have a number of those but we need to do it in a very dynamic way looking ahead to the future and in addition to our staff, of course, our ability to demonstrate results requires strong performance, evaluation, risk systems and capability.

We have good practice but we need even better practice. The Office of Development Effectiveness within the department is the office which continues to drive a focus on results under the stewardship of a head. That position has recently been upgraded to SES band 2 and reflects broader work that we are doing across the department on performance more generally. I am also committed to strengthening the risk and performance management capability of the department across its foreign trade and aid responsibilities and as we do that we can certainly learn—and we have been already—lessons from aid systems and our expertise in the development field.

Mr Exell : I can add to that, just to answer two of your specific questions. You asked about education and water. To complement what Mr Gilling and Mr McDonald said, in that performance of Australian aid, when we talk about education, for example, in 2015-16 Australian aid assisted over 1.1 million more children to enrol in schools across the region, trained approximately 136,000 teachers to help improve education quality and helped almost 5,700 women and men to gain recognised post-secondary qualifications with programs demonstrating strong links to labour market needs, as talked about by my colleague from the Pacific.

In the wash side, I think you were referring to the Civil Society Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Fund, a program that has been running for some time now. It will enhance the health and quality of life of over 3.5 million poor people by 2018, improving sustainable access to safe water, sanitation and hygiene. So, those are two examples of the kind of results that we can point to.

Senator FAWCETT: I am also interested in sustainability of results. In previous estimates I have particularly looked at the WASH figures in Papua New Guinea where we have helped build infrastructure but within 24 months availability has gone backwards because the infrastructure has crumbled. I have raised questions previously about what we have done to ensure that not only is there the upfront capital to build but there is also consideration of money to maintain, either from us or through the recipient nation. Can you give us an update on where you are going with those considerations of making sure that these investments are sustainable so the populations who are benefiting have that in the long term?

Mr Exell : I may have to turn to a colleague for the specific case in Papua New Guinea, but overall, as a principle, the government is very clear that they are keen to deal with sustainability issues by moving upstream, if you like, in that policy agenda, so working with governments around their financing allocations and their budgeting for maintenance. That is an area that we are actually spending an increasing amount of time and work on. It is difficult to always show results in that space because you are talking about the upstream policy allocations and, as you know, budgetary considerations are often difficult and fraught, but that is the space that we need to be working in in order to get that allocation to support the maintenance work. I would have to take on notice the specific issue of maintenance in Papua New Guinea.

Senator FAWCETT: I am happy for you to take that on notice but also if you could take on notice I am interested to understand what longitudinal data recording you are doing. You mentioned there the number of people who get access, which is an immediate measure post the program. What I am driving towards is I would like this committee to get feedback in your reports saying, 'Two years ago we funded this. X thousand people got access. Two years later or 12 months, two years or three years this is how many people still have access', because that then gives us a very direct measurable outcome around the sustainability of the investments that taxpayers are making.

Mr McDonald : Just on that, before Mr Exell comes in, not only you have raised this issue; this has been an active discussion within our Independent Evaluation Committee as well. Mr Exell can add to this. Within education, for example, where we talk about getting kids into schools and so on, the quality of the teaching needs a longitudinal study to see the impact on the kids as they go through the system, which is exactly the sort of thing that we do here in Australia. There is a pilot of that currently underway and I will ask Mr Exell to add to that.

Mr Exell : Just to add that if you look at Australia's development assistance in education over the last 10 or 15 years you can see that there was a focus on access, getting more kids into school. As they had success--indeed, success is not just Australian support but success is partner governments allocating more funding on their side to schools—it shows they are looking after the access. We have shifted the program more towards quality so we are seeing more aspects of quality of the learning, quality of the principals, quality of the teachers and quality of the systems. That is where you will see a large majority of spending. It is in the area of Australian expertise as well, so there is a comparative advantage for Australia to be working in this area.

Senator FAWCETT: You would be aware, again from previous estimates and a report that this committee did into the effectiveness of our aid to PNG, that one of the standout programs we saw was the partnership between DFAT, the government of Papua New Guinea and Medical Ships Australia to deliver medical training and services to the western regions. I am interested to know if you have any updated agreements or relationships with the government of Papua New Guinea and/or Medical Ships Australia over that program.

Mr McDonald : I will ask Mr Sloper to give us an update.

Mr Sloper : While I am turning to the right brief can I confirm if you are talking about YWAM, Youth with a Mission?

Senator FAWCETT: Yes. While Mr Sloper is looking for that I will give you a heads-up. The other question I am interested in is you mentioned the importance of data, for example, around health. I am aware, through the InnovationXchange, that there was a partnership with Bloomberg and I think we have had several others announced this year with Google and a number of partnerships. I think there is some $60 million that has been leveraged from the private sector. I am interested in an update on where those programs are at.

Mr McDonald : While Mr Sloper is checking his notes I can certainly talk about the Bloomberg one because I have had a high interest in it. This is going extremely well and, in fact, the foreign minister announced an additional contribution of $4 million to that project in New York not long ago; I will say last month. In terms of that Bloomberg is working in 20 countries. Of course Bloomberg has not partnered with a government before in this region other than us. It has also meant that a number of countries are now recording deaths. As you recall, 65 per cent of deaths are not recorded and one of the problems is not just recording them within hospitals or institutions but also those that are out in very remote areas, so mobile autopsies are now being put in place and that is operating as well. That has particularly had a good impact in Myanmar, the Philippines and Sri Lanka, and Solomon Islands is also recording death certificates for the first time.

The real plus of this particular project is that when it is successful, or subject to its success, it is gathering the data, analysing the data and then helping in relation to the interventions in health that will have the most impact. We can see this then having broader application into domestic violence and those sorts of things.

Just as an aside, on the InnovationXchange, I am not sure if you are going to ask about that in the future.

Senator FAWCETT: Consider yourself asked.

Mr McDonald : There are over 60 projects now that the InnovationXchange is dealing with. There are 29 or 30 partners that would never have partnered with us in the past; for example, Google are doing their first impact project with us. Ms Rauter can talk about that. As I have said to the committee before, we have had lots of people come through both political and from overseas. We have had people seconded in and out and I would invite anyone from the committee to come down as well. It is utilised quite often to think through possibilities, policy development and those sorts of things. In terms of where it is at now, it has only been in place two years.

The final thing I would like to mention is the staff. There are only 10 or 11 staff in this InnovationXchange led by Ms Rauter. They work extremely hard and are very committed to what they do. I think what we are seeing now is the results of the leadership of the foreign minister in relation to this particular initiative, the leadership of our own secretary, Ms Adamson, in terms of her commitment to this and, of course, the team of staff in the InnovationXchange. I do not know if Ms Rauter wants to add to what I said.

Senator FAWCETT: Mr Sloper is waiting patiently there.

Mr Sloper : I hope that is no trouble. In regard to the question on the role of NGOs and our partners in the Pacific, particularly in PNG, we certainly recognise that role and, in fact, it is an essential part of our program. One step to address that is an establishment of the PNG Partnership Fund. That is looking to some of the issues that you identified in the earlier discussion about evidence. We want to try to build consortia and look at how we can leverage the private sector in. We have just gone through the first round of funding. In that case not all bids were successful. There is a range of them that we will be having ongoing discussions with.

In the case of Youth with a Mission, as you mentioned, I am quite aware of the support that you and other senators have put forward before in support of their projects and that came through in the evidence for the inquiry as well. They have two arrangements or involvement with our high commission in Port Moresby. The first was through the consortia bid recently that we encouraged a range of NGOs to participate in. They were not successful in that regard; however, I can tell you that we have an ongoing arrangement with them and we are in the process of extending that contract. That will mean, in the period through to March 2018, in the end they will receive up to $2 million to continue their operations and during that period, of course, they will have the opportunity to participate with others in support of broader programs and assistance in the health sector, or if they wish to go further with local communities to look for new local partners.

Senator FAWCETT: Ms Rauter was going to give us some information on the InnovationXchange.

Ms Rauter : I was going to add to what Mr McDonald was saying around the InnovationXchange. In term of the 29 partners and the innovators that we have now invested in, most of them are still at the experimental stage, but we are seeing some great examples starting to emerge of those innovators, through the catalytic support that we have provided, actually securing commercial investment and also securing partnerships with other organisations where they have been able to go into new markets, for example, the Spirulina project that we supported through our aquaculture program. It has now partnered with BRAC to enter into the Bangladesh market. There are great opportunities there for women farmers, for income, production and also for improving our ocean sustainability through those projects.

There are myriad examples that we could go through and certainly starting to emerge some good development impact from those investments.

Senator FAWCETT: I am assuming you have internal reporting that highlights where you are up to with each of those partnerships. If it is not going to create additional work for you, could you perhaps provide those to the committee as an answer on notice as to the activities that the exchange is up to?

Ms Rauter : I am happy to do so. We will also be publishing shortly what we call an interactive map which details not only the innovation activities of the InnovationXchange but also more broadly across the department. That will be available publicly through our website.

Senator FAWCETT: Thank you.

CHAIR: Senator Gallacher.

Senator GALLACHER: Mr McDonald, I would like to revisit an answer you have just given. On 1 February 2017 there was a media report that said:

The ABC has been told the AFP commitment of $48 million together with other contributions in cash and kind will exceed $100 million before the summit is held, swallowing the equivalent of one-fifth of Australia's total annual aid budget to PNG of $558 million.

Now, I accept that they might have conflated the Justice Department spend and allocation, but it does go on to say that you are one of the departments that will provide in-kind support. I am really surprised that you were not aware of the suggestion that if we did not do something about APEC that China would. Do you still want to stand by that evidence?

Mr McDonald : I am not sure that the way I answered that is how you presented it to me. I think your question was whether I was aware of that comment. At the time I think you said it was reported and I said I had not, for whatever reason. I may not have been here at the time, but, in terms of what you have read, I have no comment other than to say I accept that that was reported on 1 February.

Ms Adamson : Mr Sloper can perhaps provide further assistance on that.

Senator GALLACHER: I am going to check my contemporaneous notes because I am pretty sure that your department gave us a briefing on this committee. It was not yourself but that briefing included discussion about this.

Mr McDonald : We will try to correct that now. I was talking from my own point of view at the time.

Senator GALLACHER: You are the head of the department that looks after aid?

Mr McDonald : I look after some aspects.

Ms Adamson : Aid is fully integrated across the department's operations so, as you will have noticed yesterday, even though we were not formally discussing aid, the geographical division heads responsible for countries to which we direct aid were able to answer a wide range of questions. The question that you have asked about assistance in relation to APEC by DFAT, AFP and others can be best answered by Mr Sloper.

Senator GALLACHER: So the question is: the Department of Foreign Affairs said those forms of support would come from a range of Australian government agencies, including Attorney-General, Defence, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade—that is yourselves—and the Department of Immigration. The question is: is any of that coming out of the aid budget? Are you actually taking the aid budget and using whatever it is, the allocation, to train police resources and using it for the APEC funds or is that another $100 million? That is the question.

Mr McDonald : I will ask Mr Sloper to answer that.

Mr Sloper : We discussed some of this last night. I think perhaps you were not present and I can go through that again. Firstly, on the point of one-fifth—

Senator GALLACHER: Do not put yourself out.

Mr Sloper : That is no problem at all. Firstly, in terms of the media reporting, we are certainly not using one-fifth of the PNG ODA budget to fund APEC support.

Senator GALLACHER: Fantastic.

Mr Sloper : The support we are providing is spread over a number of years. There is an element of that that comes from the continuing ODA programs, that is addressing capacity issues within the PNG government that will be drawn on for support for APEC. There is an addition to that, as you note, an ODA provision for the AFP to provide ongoing policing capacity. Not all of that will be ODA. I cannot speak to the split with regard to the funding for the AFP, but I can give you some estimates in terms of the figures.

Senator GALLACHER: The point is: is the aid diminished by the requirement for the PNG government to fund APEC.

Mr Sloper : No.

Senator GALLACHER: That is fine. The next question is another media report of 1 March, or at least in March 2017, where the New Guinea government said, 'Look, forget it. Just give us the money in our budget. You can't do it properly. We can do it properly. Just pay us the $550 million as you used to do in the 1990s.' What has been the response to that?

Mr Sloper : If you wish I can respond to that as well, as I was part of those discussions, or at least present. In fact, what we were asked by the PNG government was whether we would consider returning to budget support. It was unrelated to the discussion on the APEC support. The PNG government leads all planning and preparations for APEC 2018. With regard to specific issues where we are providing response—

Senator GALLACHER: I am finished with APEC. The question is the article says the Papua New Guinea Prime Minister has boasted about returning to the budget position of the 1990s versus aid programs. When I look at what we do in Papua New Guinea I do not get any great comfort out of the success stories, if there are any success stories. What has been the response to the New Guinea Prime Minister?

Mr Sloper : It was in fact Charles Able, the Minister for Economic Planning, who made the comment; it was part of the joint ministerial forum.

Senator GALLACHER: They have had quotes of the PNG Prime Minister in the article.

Mr Sloper : I do not want to argue about who made the comment but I can affirm that I was present when Charles Able made that comment. I was not present during the Prime Minister's comments, whether he made that or otherwise, but I can respond to the issue raised if you would like.

Senator GALLACHER: Yes.

Mr Sloper : There was a question about budget support. As you noted, it was a mechanism we provided in the past. Our current aid program is guided by jointly agreed priorities. Both governments have regular discussions, first at officials level and then at ministerial level, at which those priorities are signed off. Consistent with our approach to the broader Pacific we then sign, bilaterally, an aid partnership with our partner governments. The reason for that is really to go to some of the issues that you are touching on, that we have an agreed set of priorities—both governments have identified them—and an agreed set of obligations, if you like. They go to both the implementation of the programs, fraud issues and mutual obligations in terms of implementation, as some of those programs are actually implemented by partner governments or they are co-financed with partner governments. They are not solely funded by the Australian government. In this regard we have agreed that we will consider that request during the review of the next aid partnership.

Senator GALLACHER: So when we see reports that the PNG Prime Minister has boasted about winning greater control over the multimillion dollar aid program from Australia, that is not correct?

Mr Sloper : No decision has been made.

Senator GALLACHER: You have a bilateral agreement which sets out clearly what is going on?

Mr Sloper : That is right.

Senator GALLACHER: So there is no change to that position?

Mr Sloper : Yes. I can say that it is not an agreement in a legal sense; it is an equivalent of the MOU between the two governments. We go through a negotiation process to sign off on it. That just allows both sides to respond to budget pressures or other changes in policy priorities, but we have a joint commitment and we have agreed we will review that request in the next set of discussions on the future aid partnership.

Senator GALLACHER: Thank you.

CHAIR: Perfect timing, Mr Sloper. We are now going to break for afternoon tea until 3.45 when Senator Singh will be asking questions.

Proceedings suspended from 15:29 to 15:45

CHAIR: Secretary, I make this point for no other reason than to record the accuracy of history. I want you all to know that in 193AD, being 1,924 years ago, the Roman Emperor, Didius Julianus, on this day was sentenced to death by the Senate and his last words were, 'But what evil have I done?' So with those words recording history, I will ask you, Mr McDonald, to make a brief comment before I go to Senator Singh.

Mr McDonald : I have no comment on what you have just read out. I just want to be clear on the Bloomberg initiative that I talked about earlier. I do not want in any way to imply that the Solomon Islands are not recording their certificates at the moment; they are, but in relation to the Solomon Islands we are looking at a much more efficient way of getting that data through mobile technology and the like. I just want to be clear so I have not misled people.

CHAIR: Thank you. That is noted on the record. Senator Singh.

Senator SINGH: I want to ask about how much funding the government is providing for eye care related development programs.

Mr McDonald : I will need Mr Exell for that.

CHAIR: The question was government funding for eye care related programs.

Mr Exell : Apologies. I do not have the figure for eye care or avoidable blindness so I would have to take it on notice. I am sure I can get it to you very quickly.

Senator SINGH: Is there still an avoidable blindness initiative?

Mr Exell : To my knowledge that program has finished. There was a specific budget initiative that ran for a period of years and my understanding is that has concluded.

Senator SINGH: With obviously the foreign aid budget cuts, how will the government now secure the continuity and sustainability of eye health and vision care development programs in the region?

Mr Exell : I think we have had a conversation about avoidable blindness previously and one of the issues we discussed is the relative pressures across the aid budget to look at where best we spend the aid dollars in order to target things that affect the region around Australia the most. Also, colleagues have talked previously about the process we have with partner governments to discuss their set of priorities. It is a pretty important process in which we come to an agreement around which areas we think are highest priority for treatment. In the last few years, post that initiative, we have not seen the same level of demand from countries for support and country programs around the areas of avoidable blindness.

Senator SINGH: You talk about where best to spend aid dollars. Eye health and vision care programs are very cost effective, with a $4 return on every $1 invested. I am sure you are probably aware of that. Also, the issue is really in the sense that I know the focus is on our region, on the Indo-Pacific region, when it comes to our ODA budget but the fact is that we have some 90 per cent of developing countries, and two-thirds in our region, suffering from blindness or vision impairedness, so you have something like 223.4 million people in the world either blind or vision impaired, 90 per cent living in developing countries but two-thirds are actually in our region. That is a staggering proportion of those that are vision impaired and blind being in our region. We know the incredible benefits that sight brings, after cataracts and those similar types of operations, to people's lives, particularly in PNG, East Timor and a number of countries in our region to their wellbeing, health, development, education and so on, so that is why I am asking you what the Australian government is spending. Do you have any figure at all that relates to that?

Mr Exell : No.

Senator SINGH: You have nothing at all that relates to how much we are spending?

Mr Exell : I am sorry, I will get to you, as soon as I can, the specific dollars that we are spending right now. I absolutely agree with you on the importance of, in many cases, life-changing treatment and support. I am aware of the dollars on return. This is one of the difficult choices that we have had to look at and make across the aid program. Vaccinations also has a $15 to $1 return. Family planning has a rate of return of between $9 and $16. There are many trade-offs we have to make. One of the ways we do this is we go through a process of a policy frame. The Health for Development Strategy, released by our minister a few years ago, was a process that we had internally to look at the learnings, where we see the returns on our dollars, the experiences in the region from our programs, and what we think are the best areas where we can get an impact. The focus for this strategy was health security and health systems. We had a range of conversations with stakeholders around Australia and around the region about where we think is the best focus. Those policy documents are a pretty important exercise for us because they help to give a sense of prioritisation across a range of areas. Essentially we cannot fund everything.

Senator SINGH: I understand that. Does eye health fit in with health security?

Mr Exell : Not at the same level, no.

Senator SINGH: It does not?

Mr Exell : Issues like malaria and TB are equally important. So, in no way am I trying to undervalue or not recognise the importance, it is just that we have to make some trade-offs.

Senator SINGH: I appreciate you do not have the figure on how much the government is providing for eye-care related development programs, but can you tell me whether we are providing any money?

Mr Exell : Sure. I am confident that we are because I know we not only had previously central programs but through our NGO cooperation program, I think Fred Hollows and others are still receiving funding through those mechanisms, so I am confident that there is still funding. I just do not have those specifics, I am sorry.

Mr McDonald : Just on that, as you know each year we provide money to our NGOs through our ANCP program.

Senator SINGH: Yes.

Mr McDonald : I think it is going up to around $130-odd million. Through that the NGOs have the discretion to spend that according to their priorities and I am sure that some of that expenditure will be on the area that you are talking about, so we will get that as part of the figures for you.

Senator SINGH: That would be useful. The aid program supports the Australia Asia Program to Combat Trafficking in Persons for which I think the acronym is AAPTIP. The AAPTIP Independent mid-term review final report was released in October last year. I would like an update on how much funding is being allocated to this program after 2017-18.

Ms Adamson : We have some colleagues joining the table.

Mr Green : Would you mind repeating the question?

Senator SINGH: Australia Asia Program to Combat Trafficking in Persons, the AAPTIP, independent mid-term review final report released in October 2016 charts the funding allocated to this program. It ends, though, in 2017-18, so I am asking if you could please update us on how much funding has been allocated to this program after 2017-18.

Mr Green : Yes. I am going to have to apologise. I do not have the figure in front of me. I will get it for you.

Senator SINGH: Does that mean you are taking it on notice?

Mr Green : I certainly am.

Senator SINGH: I am not having a good strike rate.

Mr Green : What I can tell you is that this is a flagship program for our regional program effort in South-East Asia. We regard it as one of our most successful and valuable in the region. It is one that we expect will come into greater focus next year when the Prime Minister's special summit is going to be held with ASEAN leaders and you can rest assured that funding levels of at least what is already committed will be maintained as we go forward.

Senator SINGH: Let us talk about that because the review also indicates that there has been a reduction of $5 million in funding to the program in this coming year, the 2017-18 year. In 2016-17 it goes from $13 million to 2017-18 of $8 million; can you explain why there has been a reduction?

Mr Green : I cannot. I will take that question on notice. What I was driving at before was that the special summit will be held in March of next year which will flow forward to the following financial year where we are focusing on additional support for the AAPTIP program.

Mr Wood : If I could assist, in looking at the mid-term review that you are referring to, the program has a budget of $50 million over five years, 2013 to 2018, so that adjustment is simply the final instalment to the program. It is that profile of the $50 million over the five financial years from 2013-14 to 2017-18.

Senator SINGH: Yes. I have got it in front of me. I can see that. Has any additional funding been provided since October 2016?

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

Senator SINGH: One criticism of this AAPTIP, in the actual independent mid-term review final report itself, is that the program has not concentrated its efforts on securing strategic prosecutions. I will read out what the report says. The report found if the program focused on cases with the potential to disrupt key nodes in trafficking networks, set useful legal precedents or influenced public attitudes that it might achieve wider impact on the trafficking problem. Could you explain or provide an update on what steps are being taken to respond to this particular finding and what the program is doing to secure strategic prosecutions?

Mr Goledzinowski : We can come back to you with more details on some of this by taking it on notice, but I wanted to just quickly mention that in a general sense the focus of AAPTIP, over recent years, has been helping the countries in the region develop policies and helping them to develop their own capacities to deal with a range of issues. Criminal prosecution, of course, is one of those and there will always be a question about where the balance of a limited amount of aid money should go, how much of it towards prosecution and how much of it towards policy. From my experience—and I am by no means an expert in this area—it is a very live debate amongst practitioners as to where the money is better spent.

I might say that in addition to the AAPTIP work there is a number of other initiatives that take place in the region. We have, in addition to AAPTIP, a $20 million triangle program, which is particularly focused on assisting migrant workers. Part of that is also developing the skills of prosecutors and judges in the region to better understand, identify and manage crimes committed against migrant workers.

Another thing is within the Bali program we have a couple of major working groups. One of them is the one co-chaired by Australia which is on trafficking in persons. It has developed a couple of separate policy guides which have been translated into 14 different languages and developed in cooperation with the countries themselves that will be using these guides, which are all about victim identification and better management of the prosecutorial process.

The other working group that I would like to draw to your attention—and we can provide information on this, as well, in detail—is one that is co-chaired by New Zealand and Malaysia. It was co-chaired by New Zealand and Sri Lanka. That is the Criminal Disruption Working Group. It has what they call joint periods of action, undertaking cooperation amongst the countries of the Bali process with the result that there have been over 30 arrests and prosecutions in six different countries around the region.

Those are all things which go more to what you might describe as the pointy end of countering trafficking and slavery but we want to maintain that balance between the criminal law enforcement aspects, where we work closely with UNODC in the region, and the more policy based work which is often what the governments of the regions, themselves, say they need.

Senator SINGH: I would be happy for you to take on notice some details on those programs that you have just offered.

Mr Green : Yes, of course, and thank you for your interest.

Senator SINGH: I would like to know further, on notice, what this AAPTIP is doing to improve its prosecutions.

Mr Green : Yes. You will get that on notice.

Ms Adamson : Could I just come back with a response on your avoidable blindness and eye health question?

Senator SINGH: Yes.

Ms Adamson : I can tell you that in 2015-16 the total spend on eye health and avoidable blindness activities through ANCP was $7.5 million. Funding is provided to the Fred Hollows Foundation, the Brien Holden Vision Institute Foundation, Christian Blind Mission Australia and the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons. I can also tell you that Vision 2020 Australia has received an estimated $20 million since 2009 under previous budget measures.

Senator SINGH: But you cannot give me any current budget figures?

Ms Adamson : What I can say is that the department has provided $204,000 in Cambodia, Vietnam and PNG under an agreement. That DFAT Vision 2020 agreement ended just very recently, on 21 May 2017.

Senator SINGH: So there is nothing?

Ms Adamson : No.

Senator SINGH: This is for this budget for which we are having estimates?

Ms Adamson : That is right.

Senator SINGH: So there is nothing going forward?

Mr McDonald : Yes, there will be, through ANCP. ANCP is decided by the NGOs in terms of those priorities so I am sure next financial year, based on other financial years, that ANCP will have funding to this area. When I say I am sure—and I am happy to be corrected if I am wrong—I think the secretary has just outlined a number of those NGOs that are using that funding for that effect, for example, Fred Hollows.

Senator SINGH: That is fine but the secretary has given me figures relating to 2015-16 of $7.5 million. This estimates is about going forward to 2017-18 and beyond, so what I would like—and I am happy to have it on notice—is what the government spend will be on eye healthcare and vision care programs for this budget and beyond, whether it is in ANCP or in ODA.

Mr McDonald : I can clarify. With ANCP we would need the reporting from the NGOs on that. That is normally towards the end of the year, if I am not mistaken, because they decide how to spend that funding that is allocated to them.

Senator SINGH: But if it is an NGO called Vision 2020 or an NGO called Fred Hollows—

Mr McDonald : I will make an assumption.

Senator SINGH: I think we know what they are going to spend the money on.

Mr Exell : The secretary has given you the most recent completed period. Going forward, this current financial year will be an estimate for us to provide, so until that year is fully—

Senator SINGH: That is fine.

CHAIR: Senator Moore.

Senator MOORE: There are a few places that I would like to go and you will get a lot on notice as per usual. My first area is an update on SDGs. I know, Mr McDonald, you would have heard me asking Ms Hatfield Dodds questions in PM&C. It is around the same kind of process in terms of what is happening now with the interdepartmental committee and the planning within the SDG network for a voluntary reporting process.

Mr McDonald : Thank you for the question. I would also, as part of these estimates, like to acknowledge your interest and constant engagement with this area as well. In terms of the IDC, which Ms Hatfield Dodds and I chair, we had a meeting last month, in May.

Senator MOORE: Is that the second one?

Mr McDonald : That was the second meeting. As you may recall, there are 17 departments represented on that IDC. We in DFAT have the responsibility, because it is an international instrument, around the reporting on that, but PM&C and DFAT have joint responsibility in terms of the universal application of the coordination of that for the Australian government.

That meeting, from my point of view, was very positive in terms of the engagement we had at a deputy secretary level and also a good discussion on the way forward in terms of work that needs to be done within each of the agencies, including in relation to the consultation that we would need to take with relevant stakeholders which, as you know, is an important aspect of this. As you know, last year there was the gathering of the private sector, the academic and the NGO ACOSS groups with government and business in Sydney where a number of organisations signed on their commitment to the SDGs. We have tried to build on that as we have gone forward, including raising the SDGs—this is in DFAT itself—in any forums that we have of a high level. So, for example, we have recently had the German government. We have had the Canadian government and the EU out here. That has been a key part of our discussions about how we are going with implementing the SDGs together. We have also had the opportunity to raise it in a number of our high level forums with multilaterals, so, for example, the World Bank and so on. I have also had a number of conversations at a high level with ACFID, for example, Sam Mostyn and Marc Purcell as well and also a discussion with Monash University, which is very active in this area.

Senator MOORE: It seems to me that Monash is pushing in terms of the process.

Mr McDonald : It is very active, yes. They have some very interesting projects.

Senator MOORE: They have dedicated websites and blogs that work in this space.

Mr McDonald : They do.

Senator MOORE: That is one of the few mechanisms I can find in the Australian context that talks about the SDG process. I talked with Ms Hatfield Dodds, from my perception, about a lack of engagement particularly in the public space about the SDGs through departmental websites and reports. I will be putting questions on notice to the departments about their plans in this space around things as simple as their annual reports, as to whether they are going to integrate the SDG process into that.

Your annual report from DFAT last year had one small section on the SDGs and it seemed to me to be an add-on rather than integration which, from the aid perspective, is not the case with all the other publications. By now, it seems to me, that the SDGs are being integrated into particularly the aid documents and some of the others. I was impressed last night in the report around the modern slavery process, around the SDG driving that in terms of process.

I think this is a question for you, Minister. I was disappointed in the Australian aid budget summary. For the last two years the ministerial comment at the beginning of this documentation does not mention the SDGs at all and it does not mention the agenda 2030, which I found quite surprising because once you got into the guts of the document it is all the way through it. We have talked a bit about ministers driving the agenda. Was there any discussion, Mr McDonald, with the ministers, as this is a joint ministerial statement, about the format of the ministerial statement?

Mr McDonald : Just in relation to that, I can confirm for you that both of the ministers in this forum are very engaged in the sustainable development goals and are raising those issues in their own discussions. In terms of this booklet, this is the second version that has come out. We have tried to enhance it—and Mr Wood might be able to add to this—so I do not think there is any deliberate desire not to have that indicated clearly in the foreword but if you go through—

Senator MOORE: I have no doubt about the document itself; in fact, you reference that all the way through and it is part of the process. What I am concerned about is in the minister's foreword, where it actually sets the infrastructure for our whole aid program; it does not mention it.

Senator Brandis: That is a fair point you make. I was not aware of that. The officials have heard what you have to say.

Senator MOORE: That is all I wanted to say.

Senator Brandis: No doubt they will convey it to the minister but I must say that is a fair observation you make.

Mr McDonald : Obviously, in the introduction the reference to the SDGs in 2013 is highlighted in the second paragraph.

Senator MOORE: Not the minister; it is in the introduction of the department. That is fine. Reporting back on the process that is happening with the 17-member grouping, as yet there is nothing that has gone public about what that group is doing. Ms Hatfield Dodds said that that was a consideration and that soon something would happen. Is that your understanding, that there will be something that people who are outside the 17-member group will be able to see and say, 'That is what Australia's public sector is doing around the SDGs'?

Mr McDonald : Yes, it is under consideration in terms of the communication that we have coming out of that forum but one other thing that has become clear—and Ms Smith might wish to add to this—is that the SDGs are an international instrument signed up by government but they are a set of goals that apply to everyone in Australia, so what we are seeing at different levels, at local government, academia and so on—

Senator MOORE: The local governments are critical.

Mr McDonald : We are seeing good examples of this coming forward. So what we are thinking about, which is maybe one of the reasons Ms Hatfield Dodds referred to this, is what other sort of communication forum we could have later this year that brings that together and starts to operationalise the SDGs in terms of that.

The other thing I talked about with shared value with business is coming through. So business is seeing the opportunity that comes, as you know, from signing of the compact, to how that is important to their sustainability going forward as well. So, my answer is yes, we need to have the outcomes from the 17 group discussion in a way that everyone can see what we are doing and agreeing to and then we want to bring the parties together to have a broader discussion around that.

Senator MOORE: In terms of the cooperation and discussion with other countries, I was really pleased to hear your report about the fact that the Germans, the Canadians and the European Union, are part of the discussion. The Germans are extraordinary. They have reprogrammed their whole decision-making process where the SDGs are in every decision, and the Norwegians as well. Is that the kind of discussion that is beginning to happen in Australia about how we get governments, decision-makers and business to actually reference and consider the really important, and I think all encompassing, SDG format into explaining to the community—and the environment department was talking about that the other night when I asked them some questions—when people are making a decision around anything that impacts on security, water, poverty and all of those things, that they will be referring to that? Is that the kind of discussion that you think is occurring? I am sorry that is an opinion. Is that the kind of discussion in which you are involved?

Mr McDonald : Yes. I will ask Ms Smith to add to this.

Senator MOORE: I know Ms Smith is taking lots of notes.

Mr McDonald : She is probably taking notes to correct me. We are very conscious of the need to do exactly what you have described. Now, what is occurring internationally—and you will know this—is that some countries are taking a particular approach and others are taking a more integrated approach, which I think is where we are at. We have a number of countries that are also doing that. The approach we need to take going forward is to enhance that as we go. If you look at our aid program, it is well aligned with SDGs.

Senator MOORE: Yes, and even in a couple of years. I was looking at the documents.

Mr McDonald : Yes. Can I just add one thing that we are concerned about. The outcomes should not be that the SDGs are an add-on, in my mind.

Senator MOORE: No. Absolutely.

Mr McDonald : Because they become a standalone thing that everyone sort of says, 'Yes, we've got to do the SDGs.' We want to integrate it into the work we do as a key focus. I might ask Ms Smith.

CHAIR: Can I advise both colleagues and witnesses that time is now getting away from us. There are several senators lining up to ask questions. I was wondering if we could keep questions and answers tight now through until 5 pm. Thank you. Ms Smith.

Ms Smith : I am not going to correct Mr McDonald. I will just add to what he has shared with you. If I could start with your comment about whether there is anything public on what is happening on the SDGs. I can tell you that today, with DFAT funding, the Global Compact Network, which is a business association, has launched a website for their members which is going to be a forum for tools for sharing experiences.

Senator MOORE: I am sure there was much celebration around that.

Ms Smith : There was a lot to celebrate.

Senator MOORE: It is a wonderful thing. I was being unnecessarily sarcastic. That is a really positive development in terms of the process. How are we going to find out about it?

Ms Smith : It is a public website. I can get you details on that. It is going to be a way that GCNA members can access experiences from each other. They already get together. They have forums, workshops and things like that.

Senator MOORE: And they are driving the agenda?

Ms Smith : They are working with us. There is a number of private sector companies that are really embracing the SDGs and GCNA members are at the forefront of that, most certainly.

Senator MOORE: Good.

Ms Smith : Just to add, again, to what Mr McDonald was saying, all of us, as members of the interdepartmental committee, are doing our own communications with peak bodies and stakeholders. Local government, state governments, as well as the various private sector business or NGO academia, all of those sorts of groups are what we are talking about within the IDC and in the first assistant secretary led working group which I chair. That is very much a part of what we are doing. We are not just talking to each other. As an example, I have met with the head of Questacon—I do not know if you have noticed that Questacon has really taken up the SDGs—and the Australian Libraries Association. We are talking with all of our stakeholders very regularly on that.

In terms of the cooperation with other countries, this is the bilateral but also one of my colleagues from the department was at an ASEAN meeting recently on the SDGs and all of our diplomatic posts also have discussions on the SDGs with counterparts, so the net is very broad. As Mr McDonald said, each country will find their own way in terms of how to integrate it.

I would note, in terms of Germany, that they have had a national sustainable development strategy since 2002, which means that in some ways it has been a little bit easier for them to plug the SDGs into that process but they certainly, as G20 chair and bilaterally, are pushing very strongly on the agenda. It is something that we are integrating and you are seeing that in our reports and in our policies as well.

Mr McDonald : The goals are on our building.

Ms Smith : Yes.

Senator MOORE: That is very heartening. Has there been any voluntary reporting? Is it still too early to ask a question about voluntary reporting?

Mr McDonald : It is not too early. I expect an announcement on that shortly.

Senator MOORE: Thank you.

CHAIR: I would like to ask a couple of quick questions, if I can, before I go to Senator Ludlam. It is to do with our support for medical research in the aid program, particularly malaria and TB. Mr Exell is not far away, I hope.

Mr McDonald : He needs to come to the table.

CHAIR: The two questions I want to ask to Mr Exell if I can—and, again, if you would be brief in your responses—are whether there are any plans that DFAT has in a program to support product development partnerships for improved testing and treatment for TB and malaria? Obviously Senator Gallacher and I participated particularly with others in the inquiry into our relationship with Papua New Guinea. Can you advise us whether or not there is any work going on in that space funded by DFAT?

Mr Exell : Yes, there is quite a bit of very positive work going on in this space, consistent with the government and the Prime Minister's announcement in early 2014 to commit to $30 million annually in health and medical research. We have reinvested in product development partnerships, three key partnerships for that: the Global Alliance for TB Drug Development, Foundation for Innovative New Diagnostics and Medicines for Malaria Venture. These provide great value for money. We were talking earlier about return on investment. For every $1 invested in Medicines for Malaria Venture there is an investment impact of $3.50. For every $1 invested in the TB alliance there is an investment impact of $1.68. This investment impact is at the initial research stage. It significantly increases once the rollout with the private sector begins.

There are three or four things that I would like to highlight that are very positive. You recall we did give a presentation so thank you for the time, Chair, for us to present to the committee. The release of a new paediatric anti-malarial that treats both vivax and falciparum strains was added to the ###CHECK AUDIO, 4:21:26 pre-qualified anti-malarial in March 2016. These are things that we, along with other countries, are directly supporting and leading to great additions to the treatment for malaria and other diseases.

The introduction of the first ever highly sensitive rapid diagnostic test for malaria in pregnant women; the release of the first ever child friendly treatment product for children suffering from TB; this is a partnership that DFAT is working with the Burnett Institute and the PNG Paediatric Society to trial a product at Port Moresby general hospital ahead of a national rollout. There has been no previous diagnostic tool or treatment product for children so this is, in essence, the world's first and being supported by the Australian government and rolled out in Papua New Guinea. This is a really positive and great initiative.

CHAIR: Thank you. If you have any further information on that I would appreciate it on notice. I now want to go briefly to global polio eradication. We know that from the 1980s, when some 350,000 people were dying per year, the figure last year globally was 37 and this year we know of only five cases around the world of people who have died from polio. We know how much the Australian government has invested over time but that figure looks like it is diminishing. Can you tell us what is in the budget for 2017-18 and regrettably 2018-19—and I say 'regrettably' because we hope we might have eradicated it—for the Global Polio Eradication Initiative?

Mr Exell : I will be very quick. We appear to be genuinely on another very exciting period where, in fact, I had a briefing from the World Health Organization just last week on this from the polio team and GPEI team. It appears, for the first time ever, we have now been four months without any case of TB globally so that is—

CHAIR: Polio?

Mr Exell : I am sorry—polio, not TB. That is, again, a genuinely exciting initiative. The Australian government has committed to GPEI, over eight years, $86 million. Our current funding continues through to 2018-19. It is an average of about $9 million per year. So that program will continue through to that period. I know the program for GPEI has extended. There were further cases in Nigeria that were not expected last year, so that has extended out the time frame to eradicate polio by a year or two. It is currently under consideration whether we will provide additional support to the extra two years.

CHAIR: Perhaps on notice if you would; Secretary, as you know, I self-funded a trip to Cuba in April and I met the vice president and heads of the people in foreign affairs, mining, energy, education and health. Obviously they made the point to us that we do not have ambassadorial representation in Havana where Cuba does have such representation here. I am just wondering if you can advise what the status of the department is in regard to representation in Cuba beyond the current embassy in Mexico City, if at all?

Ms Adamson : What I would say is since 2013 the number of our overseas posts has increased and I know the foreign minister hopes that there will be opportunities in future to increase further. There are a number of countries represented in Canberra where we do not have resident representation in their countries. I think it is fair to say that they are all active in lobbying for an Australian embassy in their capitals. I am sure, when and if the time comes, the government will give careful consideration to the best place for further expansion in the light of our national interests.

CHAIR: Thank you. Senator Ludlam.

Senator LUDLAM: I have a couple of questions relating to our overseas development assistance. You might have taken a couple of questions on this earlier while I was out of the room. Did anybody address Australia's ODA to Papua New Guinea for its hosting the APEC leaders summit in 2018? Has that come up?

Mr McDonald : Yes; Senator Gallacher.

Senator LUDLAM: He did so?

Mr McDonald : Yes.

Senator LUDLAM: I am going to fast forward through these in that case and if any of this is already on the record just point me to it and I will go the transcript. What proportion of Australia's aid to PNG over the next financial year will be directed at the APEC summit?

Mr McDonald : I think Mr Sloper addressed these questions earlier.

Senator LUDLAM: Then we should be able to blast through these really fast. I have a couple of others so I will be quick.

Mr Sloper : In earlier evidence I noted that we would be contributing up to $23 million in our current estimates from ODA. That is over two years and that reflects existing programs in building PNG capacity. In addition to that the AFP has received $48.2 million to provide support in regards to police capacity and its ongoing programs in Papua New Guinea. Some of that is not ODA eligible but I cannot comment on that split.

Senator LUDLAM: I will take that up with the AFP. How can you say that it is coming from existing commitment or whatever the words were that you chose just now? I would have thought our overseas development aid budget to PNG would have focused on things like maternal mortality, child health and education. Holding an APEC summit does not seem to mesh with those earlier priorities.

Mr Sloper : As you would appreciate, the program in Papua New Guinea is quite broad. It includes governance, infrastructure, health and education, as you noted. The areas of activity I am talking about, for example, might include the use of advisers we already have undertaking work with PNG counterparts on processing at airports and on aviation security, so there is a range of activities that exist in existing relationships.

Senator LUDLAM: What was cut so that we could improve thing like airport security and things that—

Mr Sloper : They were not cut. They are continuing programs.

Senator LUDLAM: But what are those things? What is the $23 million worth of other things that will not happen while we are upgrading airport security?

Mr Sloper : What I am trying to say is there are no cuts. That reflects reorientation, if you like, of existing programs, so if I talk about the police program, we already have an existing, ongoing cooperation with the PNG police. The AFP, jointly, has done a study on what would be the key issues in terms of supporting a major event. Some of that is public security, which is an ongoing activity they already had, and some of it might be command control structures, so there is a greater orientation to, say, command control but it is within the existing funding envelope for that.

Senator LUDLAM: That is remarkable. Are you aware of any allegations of human rights abuses or corruption or involuntary displacement in the development at Paga Hill and, if so, could you detail them for us?

Mr Sloper : I am aware of media reporting on some issues around Paga Hill, yes.

Senator LUDLAM: Have you done anything to verify or validate those media reports?

Mr Sloper : There is a documentary, that I am aware of, that has been broadcast in Australia and there.

Senator LUDLAM: That was not my question. Have you done anything to verify or validate that media reporting?

Mr Sloper : I would have to check with the high commission if they have done any specific inquiries.

Senator LUDLAM: If you could. I would like to know whether the UN basic principles and guidelines on development-based evictions and displacement were followed in the development of this event, in fact, that Australia is supporting.

Mr Sloper : I note that we are not hosting the event or running the event.

Senator LUDLAM: Are you just paying for it?

Mr Sloper : No, we are not even paying for it all. We are paying for one area of cooperation and that is mainly on security that the PNG government has asked us for. They lead the event and they have set aside their own budget for the operation of APEC 2018. It is not unusual for APEC economies to seek the cooperation of others in supporting that.

Senator LUDLAM: I understand that.

Mr Sloper : We are one of a number providing assistance to PNG.

Senator LUDLAM: Yes. I get that. You appear to be trying to diffuse responsibility for the fact that there have been evictions and displacement of people who were—

Mr Sloper : I am not talking about the responsibility of the Australian government or otherwise in regards to evictions or alleged evictions. Certainly there have been areas and villages that have moved on. I am not denying that at all.

Senator LUDLAM: Moved on. That is what I am asking you about.

Mr Sloper : My only point was that was a responsibility of the PNG government rather than a responsibility of the Australian government and we have had no involvement in that process.

Senator LUDLAM: I should not be amazed but sometimes I am. Is the Australian government doing anything to ensure that the community that is being displaced so that this APEC thing can happen is properly accommodated and compensated? That sounded like a no but I am happy to give you the opportunity.

Mr Sloper : I am not aware of specific activity in regard to Paga itself.

Senator LUDLAM: That is amazing. We will need to move on. That is extraordinary. The 2015 evaluation of the Australian NGO Cooperative Program, ANCP, says, 'Based on aggregated development results alone ANCP is one of DFAT's best performing programs.' Do you acknowledge that?

Mr McDonald : Yes. We have increased funding to that program for the next financial year.

Senator LUDLAM: It said that ANCP partners delivered 18.2 per cent of the department's development results with only 2.7 per cent of the budget. That is a 2015 study. So, if it has gone up from 2.7, if there has been a lift, what is your estimate of what it will be in forthcoming—

Mr McDonald : I will ask Mr Isbister to answer that question, but my increase was around the budget amount which has increased by $2 million for next financial year.

Senator LUDLAM: So that does not speak to the proportion?

Mr McDonald : Yes, that is right. Ms Isbister will be able to answer that for you.

Mr Isbister : Are you asking the question in terms of the increase of the ANCP program financially or the results?

Senator LUDLAM: I did not realise that it had been increased until the deputy secretary pointed it out, so if you can fill in any of those blanks that would be appreciated.

Mr Isbister : The program is increasing next year from $127.3 million to $129.5 million.

Senator LUDLAM: So that is a fairly marginal increase, then?

Mr Isbister : Yes. It's an increase of $2.2 million.

Senator LUDLAM: The 2015 evaluation report sketches that that was basically 2.7 per cent of the ODA budget as a whole, but that is going back a couple of years. If it is delivering such outsized benefits, more than 18 per cent of the department's developments results and outcomes but with less than three per cent of the budget, why are NGO partners not used more widely, if they are delivering such outstanding results?

Mr Isbister : This is obviously one of the programs that works with NGOs globally but there are a range of other mechanisms where in our bilateral programs, as earlier outlined in terms of our avoidable blindness, water and sanitation programs, we work with civil society and NGO organisations to deliver on those. The Australian NGO Corporation is one important one which is about matching and acknowledging the contribution that Australians make to Australian NGOs but there is a broader and wider range of NGO programs that we also support.

Senator LUDLAM: I understand that. Can you see the point that I am making? Ninety-seven per cent of your budget is not being spent with ANCP partners and with non-government organisations. Why is the proportion so low when they appear to be an extraordinary multiplier? I am wondering why they are occupying less than three per cent of the ODA budget.

Mr McDonald : I can just add that the last time I looked—and we can take this on notice—the funding for NGOs was around 14 per cent of the program or thereabouts. You are talking about a specific aspect of the program.

Senator LUDLAM: Yes.

Mr McDonald : That has been fairly constant over the last few years but we can get that for you exactly.

Senator LUDLAM: Yes. I do not want to labour the point but I think you understand what I am getting to.

Mr McDonald : Certainly.

Senator LUDLAM: I will move on.

Mr Isbister : Can I just add to that?

Senator LUDLAM: Yes, please.

Mr Isbister : It is also an issue about the absorption capacity and the ability for NGOs to effectively deliver on that. NGO programs and community development programs are quite intensive in terms of how they are managed, the resources and the staffing, both here and overseas, so I think part of this, in coming up with a simple like for like, is not necessarily a fair way of interpreting how you allocate that. What the evaluation highlighted was the effectiveness of it. As Mr McDonald has said, it has not resulted in a commitment and increase to the program.

Senator LUDLAM: I take your point. This is the last one from me. You have undertaken, Mr McDonald, to take that on notice so I appreciate that.

Mr McDonald : Yes, I have.

Senator LUDLAM: Target 4 of our aid focus, empowering women and girls status and what you have achieved. We have raised a couple of questions before and you have replied to us in question on notice No. 409 that shows that 20 per cent of overseas development aid is managed by managing contractors. You have reported, 'An increasing proportion of investments in this sector involve partnerships with private sector entities whose awareness of and ability to address gender inequalities in agriculture, fisheries and water needs strengthening.' I am interested to know, if the target of empowering women and girls has not yet been achieved and a large proportion of our budget spend is going through private sector partners, what we are doing to ensure that managing contractors, as partners in ODAs, are actually delivering on the desired outcomes for the aid budget, with particular reference to empowering women and girls and gender equality?

CHAIR: A brief response please and take the detailed response on notice.

Mr McDonald : The expenditure on contractors, again, is fairly consistent. In terms of our gender strategies, they are inbuilt in all of our investments. The measurement we have around the target is at least 80 per cent being effective in the integration. That has been progressively increasing and it is up to 78 per cent. It is our most robust indicator, so the evidence underpinning it is very strong and it is a big focus.

Senator LUDLAM: We are out of time and the chair is winding me up. Can you provide us, on notice, with anything in writing that shows how you are achieving that, the mechanics of how that is done?

Mr McDonald : Yes.

Senator SMITH: My questions go to our foreign aid program in Myanmar. If I could just begin by congratulating Australian officials in Myanmar for the great work that they are doing and the great work that they have done in terms of their stewardship in helping Myanmar progress democratisation.

I specifically want to go to the issue of our foreign aid objective in regards to enhancing human development in Myanmar. It points to tremendous success when we look at the very large numbers of schools and the tremendously large numbers of very young children being able to access compulsory education, so I think it is a standout achievement in terms of our foreign aid budget.

I specifically want to go to the issue of the Chin in Chin State. Ninety per cent of those living in Chin State, of course, are Christians and the substantial minority in the Chin State are, in actual fact, Buddhist. I want to go to the issue of—and I will not dare pronounce it—the border area's National Races Youth Development Training Schools and whether the department is familiar with them.

Mr Green : Thank you for your comments on our programs on Myanmar, which we agree are doing great work on livelihoods and education. Education is the flagship of our engagement with Myanmar and through our Myanmar basic education program we are supporting basic education in the hardest reach areas of Myanmar, which would include the Chin State, strengthening the informal ethnic and monastic education system.

In relation to the particular institution you mentioned, I am not personally briefed on that but I would be happy to get you some information on that on notice.

Senator SMITH: There are nine of what they call NaTaLa schools. The concern that has been raised by the special repertoire on international human rights issues is that these schools may be restricting the religious expression of Christians. There is a concern that these schools might, in fact, be imposing a Buddhist religious observance. I am curious to know why, given the international commentary, we would not be aware of them because, of course, specifically if we are assisting children in compulsory education and assisting teachers why would it be that we would not be aware of these international concerns that have been raised by the Chin Human Rights Organisation about how these particular schools might be restricting religious expression, in this case Christian expression. I am particularly interested to know of the considerable sums of money, the $30 million that we send to Myanmar, if any of that money is finding its way to these schools when the Chin Human Rights Organisation, which has a large population of Chin people in my home state of Western Australia proportionately, so I am just curious to know why we do not know about it.

Mr Green : I would be surprised if our embassy did not know about it. I would be very happy to get you some information on it from them.

Senator SMITH: That would be great. I have invited the Chin Human Rights Organisation to visit Australia later in the year so I would very grateful if officials could make themselves available to meet with the Chin.

Ms Adamson : Certainly.

Senator MOORE: There is a number of areas that I am going to try and get on the record this afternoon and then put the rest on notice. I want to, first of all, acknowledge that we had the Green Book arrive yesterday. I am just wanting to clarify the cause for the delay, because at the estimates last time we were told that it was going to be available by the end of the month and that was the February estimates. Was there any reason that it happened to pop up yesterday?

Mr McDonald : Firstly, can I apologise for its lateness. It normally comes out in April of each year. We have been working on it basically since the budget was sorted. The important aspect of this is to make sure that we are totally satisfied that the numbers in it are accurate. We have also, as you know, for the second year included that graphic in the other volume which also takes a little bit of fiddling. So there is no reason for it. We finalised it. The minister signed off on it almost immediately once it was completed and we got it on the website as early as we could yesterday. It did take us a little while to get the individual pages of the graphic on. So all I can do is apologise. We did aim to have it out in April each year as a minimum. We are just a little late.

Senator MOORE: Unsurprisingly, I have not been able to get across all the data. I was impressed by the number of senators who showed interest in the issues around family planning and sexual and reproductive health after the last round of estimates and the answers to questions on notice were very useful. I know Senator Singh had interest in this area as well. Can we clarify exactly what the expenditure was on sexual and reproductive health in 2015-16? I will put this on notice because it is in this book. It has been mentioned in a number of places and I have not been able to get to it because we had extensive discussion.

Mr McDonald : To help you with that, it is a little more complicated than it looks.

Senator MOORE: It could not be more complicated.

Mr McDonald : As you know, there are a number of indicators that count sexual and reproductive health. In family planning we use the DFID measurement. So last year—and I will confirm this—the family planning figure was $23.7 million. I expect this year that figure will be higher than that.

Senator MOORE: I will put it on notice. We are really trying to track this expenditure. There are a number of organisations and senators from a range of parties tracking it, possibly for different reasons but still tracking where this money is going.

Mr McDonald : It is important that you know the sexual and reproductive health bucket and then what we are defining family planning goes within that.

Senator MOORE: I know and that is where we have to have the definitions.

Mr McDonald : The other thing is I think it is worth looking at it over a period of time because of the multilateral, with the way the expenditure works with that.

Senator MOORE: Thank you also for the information on the different programs that had been funded. That came from the minister's office just after the last round of estimates with the number of processes. I want to put on notice, for clarification, that with a number of those organisations their funding tended to end in 2017. Now, rather than go through them one by one here—which would be fun for me but probably no-one else—can we get an update of that? Perhaps these are ongoing fundings and just one round ended in 2017, but it just seemed to be a lot of those organisations ended in that process.

It is also about the funding conference that is going to be held in London, coming up now, again, looking at the impact of the global gag and what is happening across the world to respond to the removal of US funding. I take it we still have no detail from the US about exactly how that is going to operate?

Mr McDonald : I can ask Mr Exell to add to that. In terms of the invitation to the UK summit, yes, that has been received by the foreign minister and it is under consideration.

Senator MOORE: Under consideration.

Mr Exell : Thank you for the question. I think the way you characterised that was accurate. There was an early release of the Mexico City policy scope on 23 January. On 15 May you may be aware that they also released a new policy called Protecting Lives in Global Health Assistance. That essentially expanded. We do not yet have certainty about who is covered by that expansion and the new approach, so it is a moving space and there is no certainty yet. We are in touch with the partners, as we were previously, and gave you information through those estimates.

Senator MOORE: Has there been any consideration to putting specific information about this on the website?

Mr Exell : Specific information about the US policy?

Senator MOORE: About what is happening with the impact to the global gag. There is a lot of people trying to find this but because DFAT has been involved in trying to work out what the impact will be has there been any consideration of DFAT's website, which has a lot of information on it, having one segment about the current situation regarding the global gag?

Mr Green : I am happy to consider that. The concern I have, just initially, is it is US policy and there is uncertainty about how it rolls out so I would be nervous about giving definitive advice when actually we do not know how it is going to work.

Mr McDonald : Normally what we would do with something like that, if we were going to do anything like that, would be to link it in some way.

Senator MOORE: Just to have something on your website because people are looking at where this is going to impact on international development and also Australia's role and as consideration of policy and consideration of action is being done by the department and the minister. I am just putting that. It is a suggestion, instead of people scrambling around creating their own figures and creating their own focus. I do not expect an answer. It is just in terms of having a one-stop shop for Australia's understanding in the international sector of what is happening in this space.

Ms Adamson : We will certainly consider it but I have to say our overall approach is to ensure that the DFAT website offers clear statements of Australian government policies and programs. These days with search engines as quick as they are it is not difficult for people to link to other governments' websites. We tend not to do that but we will take your question and suggestion in the spirit in which it is intended.

Senator MOORE: The invitation to the event is under consideration. That would also be consideration of who, if anyone, will go and with what they will go, so we will wait for information on that.

Some of this has been picked up by other questioners but there is another round of questioning here about HIV AIDS in PNG. You would understand that we have been asking over a series of estimates in this space. I am wanting to clarify exactly what the current situation is with HIV funding in PNG, taking on board I know that the contract has now been leased and that one of the providers has won that contract, but there is still concern in the community and in the scope about the impact on people who have got HIV in PNG, so could we get some information of your understanding of what is happening in that space.

Mr Sloper : I will try to run through, briefly, the situation, given the time constraints. In terms of this current financial year we are still working to determine the sector allocations but we want to meet our policy commitments and other obligations. Generally we are looking to maintain the same allocation across the years.

Senator MOORE: So existing grants?

Mr Sloper : I beg your pardon?

Senator MOORE: Existing providers would have their funding extended?

Mr Sloper : There is no guarantee the existing providers will. I am talking about the total level of investment in terms of the sector. It will go up and down. I should say that combating HIV remains a key priority of the program. We recognise the challenges and this is recognised also in our aid investment plan which feeds into the aid partnership that we discussed a little earlier.

Our reorientation is towards trying to support the government of PNG to deliver services using its own systems. We directly support a range of HIV investments and over 2017-18 we expect to spend approximately $12 million in this area. I should make a correction. That is a reduction from last year of about $15 million. Current activities include working with the PNG National Department of Health and international and local development partners on the new national strategy and investment case analysis to identify the best mix of interventions—that is evidence, if you like, for the policy changes—a national study of HIV in key affected populations to inform policy decisions and a 12-month position to coordinate and improve advocacy by HIV NGOs in PNG.

We are also working with some other partners, including the Global Fund, to ensure that HIV services are sustainably funded in the longer term and that is part of a broader set of discussions to ensure that it is the PNG government leading; it is not just the Australian government providing support but a number of others in that sector.

Senator MOORE: The engagement of ABT associates in terms of their role—they have a number of contracts, and I will put that on notice—specifically around HIV because it was my understanding from the tender website that they have been successful in getting a process around this HIV situation.

Mr Sloper : The reference to ABT is in regard to the PNG Partnerships Fund and the governance facility that is now operating in PNG. ABT has won the contract to run the facility and that means that they will be consolidating, in consultation with the high commission who has managed the program in the past, a range of governance programs including support for NGO partnerships. We have just run a partnerships fund bidding process and we sought consortia where we asked, in fact, the NGOs to try to build consortia and come in and look to where they could involve the private sector. From memory I think there were 20 applications. Two have been approved. Fourteen are for further consideration and development; that is, there are ideas within them that may be worth going further but we want to have discussions with those consortia and how they operate. Some of them are in the health sector. The remaining, I think, were rejected.

Senator MOORE: In terms of the impact for people who have HIV on the ground, there were concerns raised that this transition process has meant that people who live outside major city areas would have limited access to getting the kinds of treatment that they need and also building up the relationship support they need through this process so they know what they need. Have you heard those concerns? Have they been raised with you?

Mr Sloper : There is an ongoing concern across PNG in terms of access to health services, including HIV, so those discussions have occurred, yes.

Senator MOORE: What I will do is I will put a lot of that on notice as well.

Mr Exell : Can I just provide a point of clarification. One of the additional estimates questions on notice sought the implications of the US policy decision on funding to UNFPA.

Senator MOORE: Yes.

Mr Exell : It was question 146. Our advice at that time from UNFPA indicated the impact would be $69 million. UNFPA have since updated that advice to say that it is between $70 million and $75 million per annum.

Senator MOORE: Yes, I saw that. One of the other areas that I wanted to look at was the humanitarian assistance. We talked yesterday about the humanitarian assistance to Sudan and those areas but before that I want to go to disaster relief.

Mr McDonald : That will be Mr Isbister.

Senator MOORE: Yes. We are waiting for Mr Isbister with his file.

Mr McDonald : I am sure he was watching actively last night.

Senator MOORE: Thank you, Mr Isbister. There were some specific questions around disaster relief. Is that you as well?

Mr Isbister : Yes.

Senator MOORE: I am going to get the right page, which is 17. Can the department provide a breakdown of how funding is spread across the three areas of disaster risk reduction, preparedness and response? Is that something that is best for you to talk to me about, Mr Isbister, or give that to me on notice? That is a general question.

Mr Isbister : I could just quickly outline how the disaster risk reduction is funded through different programs and then the details of that we can provide on notice.

Senator MOORE: You can put that on notice, yes.

Mr Isbister : In terms of preparedness we have investments with a range of our NGOs, UN and Pacific partners, about building preparedness for them to be able to respond. Obviously our focus is in the Indo-Pacific and particularly in the Pacific region. In terms of disaster risk reduction we have a commitment in terms of how we support efforts on the policy level, in terms of global disaster risk reduction. There was a conference that Minister Fierravanti-Wells attended in Cancun a week ago that took forward this agenda and we contributed to that but we also have investments around disaster risk reduction in each of the country programs, and particularly in the Pacific region. That could be investments around bill-back better. It could be around engineering approaches and so on. The overall percentage of ODA on that this year is about 2.9 per cent of our—

Senator MOORE: 2.9 per cent?

Mr Isbister : 2.9 per cent of our—

Senator MOORE: How does that compare to previous years?

Mr Isbister : It has been between two to three per cent for at least the last seven years or so.

Senator MOORE: Has it all been spent?

Mr Isbister : Yes. It is spent through different parts of the program.

Senator MOORE: Absolutely, but it has all been spent?

Mr Isbister : Yes.

Senator MOORE: So the allocation has seemed to respond to the need?

Mr Isbister : Yes.

Senator MOORE: I know that Minister Fierravanti-Wells and Minister Keenan both attended.

Mr Isbister : Minister Keenan did not. It was a joint release. Minister Keenan was not able to attend but Minister Fierravanti-Wells did.

Senator MOORE: He did not get there. He just had his name on the press release. That is fine.

Mr Isbister : I think it is because—

Senator MOORE: It is because of his portfolio responsibility.

Mr Isbister : Exactly.

Senator MOORE: What is the difference between response and emergency fund?

Mr Isbister : Are you saying more specifically in terms of the budget?

Senator MOORE: Yes.

Mr Isbister : Which budget line?

Mr McDonald : I think you are referring to the protracted line versus the emergency.

Senator MOORE: Yes. That is right. It is the one we talked about yesterday afternoon. Is it better to put that notice?

Mr Isbister : I can very quickly respond and then we can give you the details.

Senator MOORE: Is that an emergency response?

Mr Isbister : Fundamentally the protracted crisis response fund allows the government to develop multiyear funding approaches to protracted crises, so particularly those crises where we know, unfortunately, that we are going to be dealing with the same issue into the future years, so that could be the Syria or Iraq situation. It allows us to look at more strategic programing approaches on how we provide education and livelihood opportunities to refugees.

The emergency response is more about acknowledging that we need flexibility to deal with our sudden onset crises that may occur during the year. That could be cyclones in the Pacific. It could be earthquakes in the Indo-Pacific. That fund is there to be able to ensure that the Australian government can adequately deal with that but also to ensure, as occurs, such as the situation at the moment in the Horn of Africa with the drought or certain crises spiking, that we have also got the ability beyond what we might be doing for the protracted to provide additional funding to meet those needs.

Senator MOORE: Is this a distinctly different approach?

Mr Isbister : The distinctive approach is about the multiyear and it is being able to work with partners to look at, rather than short time frame investments, longer term commitments. That is particularly relevant when you are trying to look at provision of education and employment programs for refugees or communities that are being displaced or communities that are potentially returning back home after areas have potentially been able to be liberated due to conflict.

Senator MOORE: Is that similar to the situation that Senator Smith was talking about in Myanmar with the ongoing look at people who have been displaced and going back? Is that something that would come under that?

Mr Isbister : Yes. In Myanmar we have a longstanding response to the humanitarian needs and we have both angles to it in terms of how we look at the multi aspects to support people when they are displaced, but then hopefully when they are able to be returned. It is also that ability to respond to spikes in crises that may occur, such as, for example, the current cyclone or the storm that has gone through Bangladesh and into Burma in the last week or so.

Senator MOORE: Just over the last couple of days.

Mr Isbister : Yes.

Senator MOORE: Does the $12.3 million for the World Bank's global facility for disaster reduction recovery that the government announced in the lead-up to the conference fall within the $39 million?

Mr Isbister : Does it fall within?

Senator MOORE: Yes. Is it part of the $39 million?

Mr Isbister : Yes, it is, and it is spread over three years.

Senator MOORE: The ministers have reaffirmed Australia's commitment to the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction. Can you expand on how this commitment is reflected in the budget?

Mr Isbister : In the ODA budget?

Senator MOORE: Yes.

Mr Isbister : Again, coming to my earlier point, it is about how we approach disaster risk reduction. The two main aspects, as I said, are the commitments that we have to global action, so the World Bank fund that looks at practical initiatives of leveraging partnerships between government and private sector to improve disaster risk reduction and our commitment to the UN ISDR in terms of their disaster risk reduction role, in terms of the Sendai framework of the normative aspect. We are a donor to that.

Senator MOORE: The ISDR are very active in setting out their information.

Mr Isbister : They are, yes.

Senator MOORE: They send out regular—

Mr Isbister : It is also headed by an Australian as well.

Senator MOORE: So what is the purpose of the funding?

Mr Isbister : The GFDR funding?

Senator MOORE: Yes.

Mr Isbister : It is specifically the World Bank. The partnership with the World Bank is looking at how they can deliver specific practical programs on disaster risk reduction globally and how the World Bank can bring their expertise and knowledge into specific country situations. They may work with a particular country about how they are developing their budget to better invest in disaster risk reduction. They may be looking at financing models and approaches that can better deal with future risks that are emerging in certain regions or crises, but also how they can leverage the business community and the private sector because we know one of the most critical natures of disaster risk reduction is not just how it is dealt with by government but also how it is bringing together community, government and business to best deal with those risks and changing risks too.

Senator MOORE: Is there a particular focus on the Indo-Pacific area because one of the concerns—

Mr Isbister : Our contribution has a focus on the Indo-Pacific. It is a global program but our funding has been focused on the Indo-Pacific.

Senator MOORE: And it is part of our role to raise the profile of this area in the UN framework?

Mr Isbister : Exactly, yes.

Senator MOORE: There will be a lot of questions on notice including: can the department provide a copy of the ministers' programs from their conference? Minister, I know that this goes back through Minister Bishop but there will be a number of requests for briefings that comes out as well. I think this area is one, in particular, because of the change and the interest. I was looking for Senator Kitching. I know she was very interested in issues around Syria in this space. We began to ask questions yesterday but I am happy to cede to Senator Kitching with particular questions about Syria and that will be the end. I understand the time frames. I can put them on notice. We have hit 5 o'clock. Mr Isbister, thank you so much. There is particular interest across the board in this space. The two lots of questions yesterday were particularly around the Horn of Africa and Syria, so that will be the take-up that we will have and we will have to put the rest on notice.

CHAIR: I appreciate your cooperation. This now concludes the committee's examination of the department's non-trade programs. I thank you, Minister, and officers for your attendance. The committee will break for a couple of minutes while we move to examination of the trade portfolio.

Proceedings suspended from 17:00 to 17:04

CHAIR: We will reconvene. I welcome Senator the Hon. James McGrath representing the Minister for Trade and Investment. I welcome back the secretary of the department, Ms Adamson, and officers of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. Minister, do you wish to make an opening statement?

Senator McGrath: That is very kind of you, but no.

CHAIR: Thank you. Secretary?

Ms Adamson : No.

CHAIR: Mr Brown, good evening. How are you?

Mr Brown : Good evening, Chair.

CHAIR: Senator Gallacher.

Senator GALLACHER: The first question is in respect to abolition of the 457 visa scheme. Was the department consulted prior to that announcement?

Mr Brown : Yes, the department was consulted.

Senator GALLACHER: So does the new short-term visa scheme retain labour market testing for listed professions?

Mr Brown : My responsibilities are for our commitments in trade negotiations, not the details of the 457 successor regime.

Senator GALLACHER: Ms Adamson, if the department provided advice we are simply seeking information about whether listed professions have been retained.

Ms Adamson : That is a question to which the answer is quite complicated and it depends on the provisions of our various free trade agreements.

Senator GALLACHER: I am going to that.

Ms Adamson : About which Mr Brown is intimately knowledgeable.

Senator GALLACHER: It retains labour market testing for listed professions. Is that term too generic?

Ms Adamson : It is a question better directed to the Department of Immigration and Border Protection.

Senator GALLACHER: Has the government directed the department to retain labour market testing in future free trade agreements?

Mr Brown : The government has said that the visa reforms that were announced in April will be implemented in a manner that is consistent with our existing international trade commitments, including those under the WTO General Agreement on Trade in Services as well as in free trade agreements.

Senator GALLACHER: What is the answer? Has the government directed the department to retain labour market testing in future free trade agreements?

Mr Brown : What I am answering is that in relation to our existing commitments the government has indicated that the new reforms will be implemented in a manner that is consistent with those commitments.

Senator GALLACHER: That is not my question.

Mr Brown : As regards the ongoing negotiations, which I think is the core part of your question—

Senator GALLACHER: That is the only part of my question: future trade agreements.

Mr Brown : The existing offers that Australia has put on the table as part of those negotiations will remain on the table and the government has indicated that Australia should still be in a position to make commitments on temporary movement in the context of an overall successful agreement where there is a balance of benefits in such agreements.

Senator GALLACHER: I do not think that question is too complicated. I do not think we can make it any simpler. Has the government directed the department to retain labour market testing in future free trade agreements? I know you cannot say yes or no but you could be a little clearer than what you are.

Senator McGrath: I could jump in here. That is a matter of government policy. I think that would be up to the minister, so I could take that on notice.

Senator GALLACHER: So it is a policy question?

Senator McGrath: It is a matter for the minister, so I can take that on notice.

Senator GALLACHER: How many existing free trade agreements have movement of people provisions?

Mr Brown : I am looking to my colleagues. We have 10 FTAs in place as well as the WTO General Agreement on Trade in Services. From my recollection all of them have some type of commitment in this area, with the exception of our FTA with the US.

Senator GALLACHER: So 10, but if it is more than 10 you will supply that on notice?

Mr Brown : I will.

Senator GALLACHER: Were all of these free trade agreements exempt from the government's recent announcement that labour market testing would be required?

Mr Brown : As I said in response to your first question, with the reforms the government has announced we have been guided by the government's advice that those reforms will be implemented in a manner that is consistent with our existing international trade commitments, including those in our free trade agreements that you have just referred to.

Senator GALLACHER: So they will be exempt? You will honour the free trade agreement you have got?

Mr Brown : The reforms will be implemented in a way that is consistent with those commitments.

Senator GALLACHER: So we are going to honour the free trade agreements and we are going to marry the new policy with that?

Mr Brown : That is my advice.

Senator GALLACHER: How many countries are, therefore, exempt from labour market testing provisions?

Mr Brown : The structure of our commitments in free trade agreements in this area is one that is organised along different types of occupations and workforce categories, so it is not possible to answer that question in the way you framed it. We have a range of different kinds of commitments, depending on our free trade agreement partner, so in the case of Singapore the commitments are different to those that we have in place with Malaysia and so on. To answer your question, I cannot do that. I am happy to take it on notice if you would like us to formulate a response.

Senator GALLACHER: Yes. How many of these countries are exempt from labour market testing for contractual service suppliers?

Senator McGrath: I know that there are a couple of free trade agreements that were signed when Labor were in power, I think with Malaysia and Chile, that did not impose labour market testing for a range of occupations including jobs like electricians, if that is beneficial to you.

Senator GALLACHER: Absolutely. What is the answer? In addition to the ever-helpful minister's couple of countries, what are the other countries that are exempt from labour market testing for contractual service suppliers?

Mr Brown : I am just getting an answer for you. As I said at the beginning, all of our FTAs, except that with the US, have commitments which include waivers on labour market testing. In our free trade agreements with the following countries we have committed to waive labour market testing for contractual service providers who are skilled professionals coming to Australia on a temporary contract basis. Those FTAs are as follows: Chile, China, Korea, Japan, Singapore and Thailand.

Senator GALLACHER: That you very much for that. The government's new visa system has two streams and a shorter list of eligible occupations. How will this affect our contractual service supplier obligations in existing free trade agreements?

Mr Brown : The government has indicated that the visa reforms will be implemented in a way that is consistent with our FTA obligations. The successor regime to the 457 program enters into force next year. We are in consultation with the Department of Immigration and Border Protection.

Senator GALLACHER: Does the new visa scheme limit or change the number of professions which are eligible under Australia's contractual service supplier obligations? Does it have any impact on those professions?

Mr Brown : Can you repeat the question, please?

Senator GALLACHER: Does the new visa scheme limit or change the number of professions which are eligible under Australia's contractual service supplier obligations?

Mr Brown : The commitments we have made are legally binding. The government has indicated to us that the 457 successor regime will be implemented in a way that meets those legally binding commitments.

Senator GALLACHER: Just bear with me. For existing agreements they will be honoured with prospective agreements meeting the new requirements. What I am trying to ask is: is there going to be a before and after here?

Mr Brown : As I said, if you are talking about ongoing negotiations then the government has said that Australia should still be prepared, subject to the overall deal being satisfactory, to make commitments in this area of temporary movement of personnel. The precise nature of those commitments is something which we would obviously need to take into account: existing policy frameworks and government direction.

Senator GALLACHER: Would you be able to give a list of professions now eligible under Australia's contractual service obligations and is the list of professions which are eligible under contractual service supplier provisions consistent in the Chinese, Korean and Malaysian free trade agreements?

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

Senator GALLACHER: You have not challenged yourself with that application yet?

Mr Brown : That is asking for an enormous amount of detail, so we would need to go through that question and answer it in detail.

Senator GALLACHER: So there is an enormous amount of detail in the Chinese, Korean and Malaysian free trade agreements about contractual service professions?

Mr Brown : What I am saying is that the commitments we make in our free trade agreements are in specific types of categories: executive, intracorporate transferees, contractual service suppliers, installers and so on. Each of those has a particular linkage back to our domestic regulatory system, so you are asking me to try to compare apples and oranges here and I am saying in order to do that I would need to take it on notice.

Senator GALLACHER: For anybody that is listening to this—and I am not sure there would be too many people—for an average taxpayer out there you would think a free trade agreement is a free trade agreement. You would not think it is an apple and an orange. That is the problem we have with the popular discussion of free trade agreements: they are incredibly complex; they are incredibly detailed and they do affect different sectors of the economy very differently, but the popular perception is 'free trade' means moving free and as we will find out during the course of this evening that is not what has been negotiated. I would appreciate if you could take on notice the differences between eligible professions under contractual service provision in the Chinese, Korean and Malaysian free trade agreements.

Mr Brown : I am happy to take it on notice.

Senator GALLACHER: Could you provide a list of all eligible occupations under the contractual service provider provisions for each of Australia's free trade agreements on those?

Mr Brown : Yes.

Senator GALLACHER: If we could move to a slightly different topic, does the department model every free trade agreement that it negotiates?

Mr Brown : No, we do not model every agreement.

Senator GALLACHER: Do you model any of them?

Mr Brown : We do, and in the past we have certainly done some modelling or commissioned some modelling of some agreements, yes.

Senator GALLACHER: Was the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement modelled before it was signed in New Zealand last year?

Mr Brown : It was certainly modelled but just not by DFAT. There was Peterson Institute modelling.

Senator GALLACHER: I am sorry, I am not asking about anybody else but DFAT. I am asking you if you modelled it. If Joe Smith modelled it, that is not really an answer to my question to you.

Senator McGrath: The World Bank modelled it and they have found—

Senator GALLACHER: Unfortunately the World Bank is not appearing before Senate estimates. I wish they were.

Senator McGrath: It found that the TPP would boost Australia's GDP by 0.7 per cent and increase exports by five per cent.

Senator GALLACHER: Absolutely. So my question remains: did the department conduct modelling on the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement signed in New Zealand last year?

Mr Brown : The department did not undertake any modelling.

Senator GALLACHER: Does the department conduct economic modelling of every free trade agreement it negotiates?

Mr Brown : No, it does not.

Senator GALLACHER: Why are we not modelling free trade agreements?

Mr Brown : In our experience the sort of general equilibrium modelling, which is typically used for these types of agreements, is a very imperfect guide to the benefits that would flow. Let me give you one specific example. Services liberalisation is extremely difficult to capture in a quantitative model of the type that is used by most mainstream economic models. If you are talking, for example, about an FTA with a country like Hong Kong, where tariffs are zero on the Hong Kong side, it would be very difficult for us to construct a model that would meaningfully give us an insight into what the benefits of services liberalisation would be, but we know, through extensive contact with our stakeholders, that there is tremendous interest in Australian services exporters, investors and businesses generally in extending into the Hong Kong market, in this particular case, and, therefore, we believe there is a very strong case, a business case if you like, for proceeding with an FTA but we do not believe in this particular case a general equilibrium model would really give us too many insights into the broader benefits of an FTA with that particular country.

Senator GALLACHER: Who would decide if a free trade agreement were to be modelled? Who would make that decision? Would it be the department? I accept that you have outlined a case where it would not work. What about a case where it would work?

Mr Brown : Ultimately it would be for the minister to decide if he or she would like to commission modelling.

Senator GALLACHER: But given your previous answer you would not suggest that a particular free trade agreement was a good candidate for a model?

Mr Brown : As I have explained, I do not think Hong Kong would be good. I think every case is slightly different and we need to look at it on a case-by-case basis, which is our current approach.

Senator GALLACHER: So the government has not directed the department to model future free trade agreements in every case?

Mr Brown : As I have indicated, there is no government directive to model or not to model. We deal with each particular FTA negotiation on a case-by-case basis. If we believe that modelling would be helpful to give government an insight into the overall benefits, along with a lot of other analysis, then of course we would undertake that. I would, however, just add here that when we make submissions to the government proposing free trade agreement negotiations be launched we provide a tremendous amount of material, quantitative and qualitative, to inform the government's decision-making and we have a very extensive range of stakeholder outreach which we use to try and test what the precise benefits might be for Australian businesses pursuing free trade agreements. That is an important part of our input to government decision-making.

Senator GALLACHER: Is there benefit in modelling negotiated free trade agreements and releasing the analysis as was included in the national interest analysis for the Korean agreement?

Mr Brown : Just repeat that. I did not catch that word. Was it 'leasing' that you said?

Senator GALLACHER: No. Is there benefit in modelling negotiated free trade agreements and releasing the analysis as was included in the national interest analysis for the Korean agreement?

Mr Brown : I am sorry, I am not really sure what you mean, but I think the answer is that the government would direct us to undertake any modelling if they wish modelling to be undertaken. What you are referring to is the national interest analysis, which is a normal part of the process that the executive is required to go through to seek parliamentary approval of final free trade agreement outcomes.

Senator GALLACHER: There is a statement by the Hon. Mr Keith Pitt: 'The process always includes modelling on our behalf as to what is in the best interests of our country.' Can someone, perhaps the minister or the department, explain what that statement means, given the evidence we have heard here? Your evidence, I believe, summarised, is it is not a case per se for modelling. There may be in individual circumstances. The minister does not direct it. The minister can direct it but does not direct it in every case. So where was Mr Pitt coming from when he said, 'The process always includes modelling on our behalf as to what is in the best interests of our country.'

Senator McGrath: My understanding is that he has expanded upon his comments on his website, but I can take that on notice.

Senator GALLACHER: You are not aware of what he said?

Senator McGrath: I can take that on notice.

Senator GALLACHER: In the current political climate I am sure the department is equally aware, as is everybody in the Senate and the House of Representatives and various parliaments around Australia, there is almost a movement of scepticism towards the benefits of trade, which is totally contrary to Australia's national interests. We actually need to manage these things better. Minister or the department, would you concede that there must be some benefit in independent economic modelling of newly negotiated free trade agreements?

Mr Brown : On the core of your question, which was how we deal with what you describe as public scepticism around the benefits of free trade, I think we as a department have done a number of things which are designed to try and inform and advise the community more broadly of the benefits of particular free trade agreements. Most notably there has been a series of what we call FTA roadshows, essentially information sessions, which have been undertaken across the country for some time now and which have particularly targeted SMEs and other members of the business community, but also the general public.

We have also provided information on the DFAT website, including an FTA interactive portal, which is a way of allowing business and the community to understand what these agreements actually entail.

Senator GALLACHER: Mr Brown, I am certain that you have taken as much action as you can to explain things, but this committee has taken evidence in inquiries about the making of free trade agreements and there are substantial groups of society who come with very researched submissions and almost invariably they ask us why we do not model our free trade agreements. So all the good work that you are doing is not penetrating out there because we are getting submissions saying people need to be involved in the negotiation of free trade agreements, a wider group of people, and that we need people to actually be convinced by independent modelling, maybe the Productivity Commission or other people, of the merits of these respective agreements. The question really remains—and I am not really fussed which way you answer it, but given the interests of time—do you think there would be benefit in economic modelling and, in particular, an economic model in respect to the Trans-Pacific Partnership?

Senator McGrath: We can take that on notice.

Senator GALLACHER: I am happy if you want to take it on notice but I did not think the question was all that complex. What will be the reconsideration, the yes or the no?

Senator McGrath: I said we will take it on notice.

Senator GALLACHER: If I move to another critical area of concern in free trade agreements, has the department been consulted in the design of the Australian Domestic Gas Security Mechanism that the government is currently developing?

Mr Brown : Yes, we have.

Senator GALLACHER: When was the department first consulted?

Mr Brown : Just bear with me and I will get some notes. I do not have a date on when we were first consulted. I will take that on notice.

Senator GALLACHER: Thank you. How many of Australia's LNG exporters are foreign owned?

Mr Brown : I will take that on notice.

Senator GALLACHER: It is probably clear from the public record that LNG projects in Australia have foreign investors from Korea, Malaysia, China, Japan and the United States, so given that the public record of huge investment into the gas sector is fairly clear, how many of Australia's free trade agreements have ISDS provisions, the investor-state dispute settlement provisions?

Mr Brown : Can we come back to that one? We just need to check.

Senator GALLACHER: So are any of the gas suppliers totally Australian owned—the LNG plants or projects?

Mr Brown : Obviously there is a large degree of foreign involvement in the gas industry.

Senator GALLACHER: That is the point of the question. Senator Back has been very helpful with Woodside. The point is that if we are looking at an Australian Domestic Gas Security Mechanism is there going to be a contest, given the large degree of foreign investment, appropriate foreign investment and, indeed, ownership in some respects, in terms of these investor-state dispute settlement provisions in Australia's free trade agreements? Is that an area you are aware of? Is it a concern?

Mr Brown : The government has been clear that the Domestic Gas Security Mechanism is a targeted and temporary measure and DFAT has been in active participation in the consultations that have so far been undertaken by the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science, including with the LNG industry, regarding the design and implementation of this mechanism.

Senator GALLACHER: My question is: did you give advice? You were consulted? We are waiting on the date. We are aware that there is foreign ownership in Australia's LNG exporters. You have not given us the number but ISDS provisions are common. Is that a word I could use?

Mr Brown : I have got the number here for your earlier question. We have ISDS clauses in six of our free trade agreements that are currently in force.

Senator GALLACHER: Would action by the government to put in place a Domestic Gas Security Mechanism negatively—that is probably not the question for you. Would a restriction of gas exports expose Australia to legal action under ISDS provisions in our free trade agreements?

Mr Brown : I think the way I would answer that question is that DFAT, as I said earlier, has been actively involved in consultations with the relevant domestic agency around the implementation and design of the scheme and the government, of course, in the process of considering these issues will factor in its international obligations, including those in our free trade agreements.

Senator GALLACHER: So specifically ISDS has been factored in the consultation?

Mr Brown : I think the government is mindful, as it always is, of our international obligations and seeks to ensure consistency between domestic policy measures and these obligations.

Senator GALLACHER: And this is an issue that has come up in inquiry after inquiry arising out of the Hong Kong free trade agreement and the Philip Morris action and like action all around the world. Some of the South American jurisdictions are facing action by tobacco companies in ISDS. The government has consulted about its security mechanism. We have ISDS clauses in six agreements and that has been at the forefront of discussions in the consultation?

Mr Brown : Correct.

Senator GALLACHER: The trade minister recently attended the Belt and Road Initiative in China. Do we have any information about that conference? What was on the agenda? Just before the official finds his chair, Mr Brown, you are the deputy secretary. Are you the most senior bureaucrat in respect to trade agreements?

Mr Brown : Correct.

Senator GALLACHER: Would Australia face action under ISDS provisions if we enact the Australian Domestic Gas Security Mechanism?

Mr Brown : Obviously, I cannot answer that question because the gas security mechanism is still being designed. So many of these questions, as always in these matters, would depend on the precise design features.

Senator GALLACHER: We went to the Belt and Road Initiative conference in China last month. What was discussed at that conference? I will rephrase that; from an Australian perspective. It was obviously a Chinese initiative and we can see great drives through the old Silk Road being reinvigorated so from an Australian perspective what were we there to discuss?

Mr Fletcher : China is a large Australian partner. It is a very important country in our region and the Belt and Road Initiative—whatever it quite is, which is a little difficult to pin down—is President Xi Jinping's signature foreign policy initiative probably for the next decade. It is quite a big deal for China. We have been talking to China about Belt and Road things, investment opportunities, for a couple of years now in various forums. They invited our trade minister and our tourism and investment minister and we felt it would be worthwhile his attending that meeting. He participated in a session, or he spoke at a session, on trade competitiveness and liberalisation, broadly defined, which is very important to us. We were not in all of the sessions. It was quite a complicated gathering with 100-plus delegates or countries represented. There were presidents and heads of government. The way the Chinese do things is you get a sort of hierarchical status so a cabinet minister like Minister Ciobo was treated as one of the dignitaries but he was not in every discussion because there was a leader's level retreat so we were not involved in everything but we were certainly involved in the part of the conference that we felt was important.

Senator GALLACHER: Were we looking for opportunities for Australian companies or were we being appraised of opportunities?

Mr Fletcher : We are certainly interested in taking advantage of any opportunities which arise but Belt and Road is quite an amorphous concept. It began with China saying to the countries of Eurasia, 'Let us invest. Let us build things', whether it is transport links, ports, railways et cetera, but over time it has developed into quite an elaborate—it is a badge, really, that they are putting on a lot of activity that is going on in places which have nothing to do with the original Silk Road. South Pacific is meant to be part of and now the footprint of Belt and Road; Africa and various other places.

It is a Chinese initiative to develop connectivity, help with some of their capacity, over capacity domestically and drive investment. There is certainly soft power, geopolitical overtones to it. It is a very popular initiative in China. We are finding that people are using Belt and Road as a way of getting their own projects up and running. It is being applied to all sorts of things.

Senator GALLACHER: There is no secret about infrastructure investment being a precursor to economic development and lifting people out of poverty.

Mr Fletcher : Yes. So to the extent that Australian firms—those that have got abilities in project management, infrastructure development and all kinds of things—can win business in partnership with Chinese investment, that is in places where China is doing things, then we would like to see that happen.

Senator GALLACHER: So what would success look like from an Australian perspective? Do we have achievements?

Mr Fletcher : We have highlighted the importance of international standards in any projects which get up and running, open procurement processes, sensitivity to local laws and communities, transparency and efficiency. Success for us would be those principles being applied throughout Belt and Road activities and success would include Australian companies being able to participate on a competitive footing in such activities as well.

Senator GALLACHER: Having visited Kenya recently I saw plenty of evidence about Chinese workers building railways but not a lot of Kenyans employed on that. Is there a real need to push that?

Mr Fletcher : I think China is still learning how to operate effectively in a sustainable way in developing countries. There are some parts of the world where the multinationals from Europe and North America have tried and failed—and there are opportunities there that China is now taking—but they are now discovering why there have been difficulties that others have experienced, so I think as they go they are learning the importance of local involvement, community consultations and so on, and we are seeing that in Australia as well. Chinese investment in our resources sector now is much more aware of the need for community consultation and bringing people along with you than they might have been when they first began some 10 years ago.

CHAIR: Senator Kitching has a question in the same space.

Senator KITCHING: I think it is amorphous. I think it is a general concept at the moment. We do not really know what is going to happen but would we watch for those kinds of developments?

Mr Fletcher : I do not know exactly what China is doing in Djibouti.

Senator KITCHING: It is obviously a port town and they have put a naval presence there where they have built a base. I am interested because there are some articles around it, given the Chinese investment and so on, and the military presence. It is not really military. It is naval in this case that has also been attached there.

Mr Fletcher : Yes. I read those articles. I am not absolutely certain what China is doing in Djibouti. Are you asking: does Australia pay attention to Chinese investment in the Indian Ocean and what form is it taking?

Senator KITCHING: Yes.

Mr Fletcher : The answer is yes, of course we do.

Senator KITCHING: I do not want to ask for an opinion so I might leave it there.

Ms Adamson : I can add to that, Senator Kitching. Of course we watch, with interest, not only to what China says about its intentions in the Indo-Pacific region in the years to come but we also look at its actions. Yes, as a significant trading partner and as a rising power within our own region and perhaps globally we pay considerable interest to what China says and what China does because, of course, Australia's interests are most manifestly going to be able to be advanced if the region continues to be peaceful and if the broad aspects of the international rules based order, as we know it, including international law in all its elements, including good governance around projects in the way that Mr Fletcher mentioned, if all of that is maintained then the outlook for the region from Australia's perspective is clearly going to be a much more positive one than if those norms and rules are somehow eroded and if our region becomes one where might is right, if I can put it that way.

CHAIR: Before I go back to Senator Gallacher, Mr Fletcher, I think I am right that under the China-Australia Free Trade Agreement companies like those who provide aged-care services here in Australia are able to provide those aged care facilities, nursing homes and so on, in China now. Is that correct?

Mr Fletcher : Yes.

CHAIR: The same with education and higher education; is that an opportunity that has now opened up for Australian companies under that arrangement?

Mr Fletcher : Yes.

CHAIR: Also, in coming into an area that I spend a bit of my life in, that is in the beef industry, I think we are seeing some joint ventures or partnerships now, for example, with Gina Rinehart and Chinese consortia in terms of exporting beef and also V&V Walsh is another company, I know, based in Bunbury who have joined forced for exporting agricultural produce into China. I understand, Minister, you might know. I think one of the objectives of the Wagner family with the Wellcamp airport is that they are looking to build facilities adjacent to the airport so that they can facilitate trade.

Senator McGrath: It is totally brilliant what they are trying to do there at the moment with direct flights into China. What that family has done shows a great deal of foresight.

Senator GALLACHER: Can I go to the conference? Did the minister sign any official document?

Mr Fletcher : No.

Senator GALLACHER: Did the minister sign a trade statement?

Mr Fletcher : No, but I think I know what you mean and I can answer the question that you have not quite asked. The session the minister spoke at was promoting unimpeded trade cooperation. A statement or a document emerged from that which we assisted with the negotiation of and which we are associating ourselves with.

Senator GALLACHER: There was some media comment that the European Union had a protest and so on.

Mr Fletcher : Yes. Not everyone in that particular session ended up supporting the statement.

Senator GALLACHER: So it is not a formal trade statement or an official document. What is it? Did you say it was a communique?

Mr Fletcher : I do not know how to describe it and I do not have a copy of it because it has not been released by the Chinese, but certainly we know what was agreed on the day.

Senator GALLACHER: Presumably someone has got a copy of it.

Mr Fletcher : Someone does, yes. I do not have one today.

Senator GALLACHER: What would we call it?

Mr Fletcher : A statement. It was a joint statement.

Senator GALLACHER: So we know that a statement was agreed by someone?

Mr Fletcher : Most of the participants; it gets back to the first question. This was quite an unusual event. It was a Chinese sponsored conference but a few days ahead of the conference the Chinese said, 'Let's issue a statement, a document.' We said, 'You do that at an international negotiation meeting. We're not meant to be negotiating something', but nevertheless, because the hosts were very keen on it and it is not a bad thing to have an outcome piece of paper, but it does not have any formal legal status as committing people to anything. It is an expression of views.

Senator GALLACHER: It is not up to us to release it because we have not got it. They have got it. Is it a Chinese document?

Mr Fletcher : It was a Chinese initiated statement but it was broadly agreed. I do not know how many countries were in this particular session that Minister Ciobo spoke at.

Senator GALLACHER: Just in the interests of time I will make it brief. It was a written statement?

Mr Fletcher : Yes.

Senator GALLACHER: We signed it?

Mr Fletcher : We agreed to it. We did not sign it.

Senator GALLACHER: We agreed to it. If I ask you could you provide a copy of it the answer would be?

Mr Fletcher : I will take that on notice.

Senator GALLACHER: The reason we cannot get a copy of it is because it is not publicly released?

Mr Fletcher : It has not been. Normally you would expect the Chinese to have issued it on their website. That has not happened yet but I am sure we can get a copy.

Senator GALLACHER: So that is on notice as well?

Mr Fletcher : Yes.

Senator GALLACHER: Thank you. The department would be aware of the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties and the work of that august body in relation to the Trans-Pacific Partnership?

Mr Brown : Yes.

Senator GALLACHER: Would it be correct that the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties handed down a report on 30 November?

Mr Brown : That is correct, yes.

Senator GALLACHER: With anybody under 30 you cannot trust them to check the dates. This is clearly a government majority committee. That is the way that it is set up in every parliament: whoever is in government has got the chair and the majority. Are you familiar with the six recommendations that the report contains, Mr Brown?

Mr Brown : Yes, I am.

Senator GALLACHER: The last of those recommendations would be redundant because the United States has now withdrawn from the TPP. Do you concur with that? I think it is recommendation 6. We are back to five recommendations that are practical and in consideration for the government?

Mr Brown : Yes.

Senator GALLACHER: Has there been any discussion with the department about implementation of recommendation 1?

Mr Brown : The government is still formulating its response to the JSCOT report.

Senator GALLACHER: I will do these individually. Has the government and the department discussed how it could implement recommendation 2?

Mr Brown : The government is still formulating its response to the JSCOT report.

Senator GALLACHER: Has the government and the department discussed how it could implement recommendation 3?

Mr Brown : The same response for all recommendations.

Senator GALLACHER: So with recommendations 4 and 5 the government is formulating a response and there has been no discussion with the department. Just so that I am perfectly clear, the government will make its mind up and then initiate consultation with the department and none of that has happened?

Mr Brown : The government is yet to finalise the terms of its response to the JSCOT recommendations. Obviously the US withdrawal from the TPP means that the situation with the TPP remains a live issue. You would be aware of the statement that was released in Hanoi by the 11 TPP ministers which is an accurate description of where the current discussions within that grouping are headed.

Senator GALLACHER: It is quite an important finding. The committee is the committee. It is a joint committee of the parliament. It is chaired by the government and it has a government majority. I think it is important to place on the record:

The Committee recommends that the Australian Government consider changing its approach to free trade agreement negotiations to permit security cleared representatives from business and civil society to see the Australian Government positions being put as part of those negotiations.

That is recommendation 1. We are awaiting a government response on that; that is your evidence. Recommendation 2:

The Committee recommends that the Australian Government consider implementing a process through which independent modelling and analysis of a proposed trade agreement is undertaken by the Productivity Commission, or equivalent organisation, and provided to the Committee alongside the National Interest Assessment (NIA) to improve assessment of the agreement.

Recommendation 3:

The Committee recommends that the Australian Government considering using the single set of documentary procedures and the paperless trading provisions of the TPP to measure the agreement's benefits.

Recommendation 4:

The Committee recommends the Australian Government progress the safe harbours amendments in the proposed Copyright Amendment (Disability and Other Access Measures) Bill.

And finally:

The Committee recommends that the Australian government ensure adequate resourcing to enable effective participation in committees dealing with technical barriers to trade.

I have just cleared all of that out of the way. We are awaiting a government response?

Mr Brown : We are.

Senator GALLACHER: What is an export strategy? What does it look like? Is it a paper or a position?

Mr Brown : I am not sure. Every country and every system would have its own definition for what an export strategy might look like.

Senator GALLACHER: We have had one for a fair while. We dig up iron ore, we send it overseas and we are very good at it but, as Senator Back has highlighted, there are emerging areas of potential export, particularly in services. So, does the department have an export strategy for aged care or financial services? What do we do? Do we just leave it to the marketplace?

Mr Brown : Our focus is on opening as many opportunities as possible for our businesses to expand abroad and that involves a range of different mechanisms to reduce and eliminate barriers and to make the business environment, in a global and regional sense, as seamless as possible. We have been talking about free trade agreements, obviously, but we use a range of mechanisms to try and advance the interests of those particular sectors or industry interests. If you are asking whether we have a specific sector-by-sector export strategy, that is not something which the department would typically implement.

Senator GALLACHER: Our trade minister, the Hon. Steve Ciobo, is on the record as saying:

… what this comes down to is a strategy that I've got and the Government’s pursuing, …

We are interested in looking at that strategy. The department does not have one?

Mr Brown : I am not familiar with the quote that you are using here.

Senator GALLACHER: It goes on to say:

… which is to boost our services exports, … Services accounts for about 75 per cent of the Australian economy. Roughly four out of every five jobs is in services industries and yet it's only 22 per cent of our exports.

That is something I am very familiar with because it has been part of the rhetoric around free trade agreements for the last six years. I am surprised that you are not familiar with that statement and that rhetoric.

Mr Brown : I am certainly familiar with the minister's desire, which we share of course, to expand opportunities for our services exports. I think what the minister was saying was that we have got a whole range of different activities and measures which, taken together, we believe represent an important strategy to advance the interests of our services exports. The minister has pointed out many times that while services accounts for over 70 per cent of the domestic economy, it accounts for only about 20 per cent of our exports, so there is significant scope for potential.

Senator GALLACHER: That is what I just said. We are in abundant agreement on the issue. What we are asking is—and I am probably being a little pedantic—the minister has, in the public forum, made the statement, 'Well, what this comes down to is a strategy that I've got and the government is pursuing', so we are asking of the department have you seen the services export strategy? Did you prepare a services export strategy?

Mr Brown : I do not believe the minister has ever said that a services export strategy, in terms of a document, is something which exists. What we are talking about is a series of measures which have been very well covered in the minister's public statements and the department's public statements which, taken together, make very clear what it is we are trying to do in this particular area.

Senator GALLACHER: Who handles the freedom of information requests? There was a freedom of information request and it came back, 'The department is not, however, aware of any discrete document entitled Service Export Strategy', so we are all in agreement there is no export strategy on paper.

Senator McGrath: This may assist you in terms of where your questioning is going.

The Australian government and the department undertake a broad range of activities to promote the export of services overseas and to continue to grow the sector to strengthen the Australian economy, lift economic growth and create new higher paying jobs. This is pursued through, for example, the Australian government's international competitiveness agenda and related trade facilitation activities, shaping lever level initiatives on services liberalisation through APEC, tourism promotion and facilitation initiatives, aviation promotion, including bilateral aviation agreements, international education services promotion, outreach on existing free trade agreements, as well as pursuit of new and updated free trade agreements with key trading partners, including the plurilateral trade and services agreement. The Australian government is also assisting Australian businesses to become exporters through products such as the Export Essentials Act.

Senator GALLACHER: I have no difficulty with anything that you are saying. I accept the fact that our economy is more services than anything else and that we need to be exporting services. I just want to see a strategy because I do not know how you export services and you actually get tax paid in Australia or where the benefits flow. I have seen the University of Wollongong set up a campus in Dubai. No-one pays tax there because it is tax free. How does the Australian economy benefit from the export of education services into Dubai, while it might make a profit and it may repatriate that back at some stage? I want to see this strategy. I think we need one because we can all say that we are going to export all of these services but how does it literally benefit the Australian economy? That is my question. There is no document. We have cleared that away so we will move on. Perhaps if we could go to Austrade. We are moving really quickly here.

CHAIR: You are doing well.

Senator GALLACHER: Is there anybody from Austrade that can handle a couple of questions?

Senator McGrath: Is that the next session?

Senator GALLACHER: Do you want me to slow down?

Senator McGrath: Not if you are finished.

Senator GALLACHER: Obviously there could be other senators that may have questions of trade because we have got to it a little earlier.

Senator McGrath: Let us, if you are happy to go on, Chair.

Senator GALLACHER: There is no disagreement. Are we happy to move on to Austrade, Chair?

CHAIR: Absolutely.

Senator GALLACHER: This mainly goes to questions on notice. I have been reminded by Senator Moore that I must thank the Department of Foreign Affairs for their submissions, answering questions and cooperation throughout the day. Thank you.

CHAIR: Indeed, I echo those comments. Ms Adamson, thank you, particularly, for ensuring so many questions that were asked, that you took on notice, were able to be answered during the course of this estimates. I think that helps my colleagues enormously.