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Environment and Communications Legislation Committee


In Attendance

Senator Birmingham, Minister for Education and Training


Dr Gordon de Brouwer, Secretary

Mr Malcolm Thompson, Deputy Secretary

Mr Sean Sullivan, Acting Deputy Secretary

Dr Rhondda Dickson, Deputy Secretary

Corporate Strategies

Ms Mary Wiley-Smith, Chief Operating Officer

Ms Lily Viertmann, Chief Financial Officer

General Counsel

Mr Simon Writer, General Counsel

Policy Analysis and Implementation

Ms Helen Wilson, Acting First Assistant Secretary

Ms Edwina Johnson, Acting Assistant Secretary, Strategic Policy and International Branch

Ms Paula Perrett, Acting Assistant Secretary Economics and Deregulation Branch

Ms Lara Musgrave, Assistant Secretary, Engagement and Evaluation Branch

Outcome 1—Biodiversity and Conservation

Ms Kylie Jonasson, First Assistant Secretary

Ms Emma Campbell, Assistant Secretary, Landcare and Biodiversity Policy

Mr James Barker, Assistant Secretary Programme Delivery

Mr Matthew Dadswell, Assistant Secretary, Programme Support

Ms Rachel Parry, Assistant Secretary, Reef

Mr Gregory Andrews, Threatened Species Commissioner

Environment Standards

Mr Dean Knudson, First Assistant Secretary

Dr Simon Banks, Assistant Secretary, NSW/ACT Assessments and Fuel Branch

Ms Deb Callister, Assistant Secretary, Qld/Vic/Tas Assessments and Policy Implementation Branch

Mr Kynan Gowland, Acting Assistant Secretary, Compliance and Enforcement Branch

Mr Roland Trease, Acting Assistant Secretary, Policy and Reform Branch

Mr Bruce Edwards, Assistant Secretary, WA/SA/NT Assessments and Air Branch

Mr Andrew McNee, Assistant Secretary, Chemicals and Waste Branch

Wildlife, Heritage and Marine

Mr Stephen Oxley, First Assistant Secretary

Mr Paul Murphy, Assistant Secretary, Wildlife Trade and Biosecurity Branch

Ms Chris Schweizer, Assistant Secretary, Marine and International Heritage Branch

Mr Geoff Richardson, Assistant Secretary, Protected Species and Communities Branch

Mr Chris Johnston, Assistant Secretary, Heritage Branch

Outcome 2—Emissions Reduction Fund

Mr Hilton Taylor, Acting First Assistant Secretary

Mr Daniel Besley, Acting Assistant Secretary, Policy Frameworks Branch

Ms Gayle Milnes, Assistant Secretary, Methodology Branch

Ms Kate Lea-Perry, Acting Assistant Secretary, Land Sector Abatement Branch

Climate Change and Renewable Energy

Mr Brad Archer, First Assistant Secretary

Mr Rob Sturgiss, Assistant Secretary National Inventory Systems and International Branch

Ms Lesley Dowling, Assistant Secretary

Outcome 3—Australian Antarctic Division

Dr Nick Gales, Director

Dr Rob Wooding, General Manager, Support and Operations Branch

Mr Rob Bryson, Programme Manager, Modernisation Taskforce

Mr Matthew Sutton, Finance Manager

Outcome 4—Commonwealth Environmental Water Office

Mr David Papps, Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder

Mr Steve Costello, Assistant Secretary, Wetlands Policy and Northern Water Use

Mr Greg Manning, Assistant Secretary, Southern Water Use and Projects


Dr Diana Wright, First Assistant Secretary

Mr Matthew Whitfort, Assistant Secretary, Office of Water Science

Mr Mike Maslen, Acting Assistant Secretary, Environmental Resources Information Network

Mr Richard McAllister, Supervising Scientist

Mr Rick van Dam, Director, Environmental Research Institute of the Supervising Scientist

Agencies and Statutory Authorities

Bureau of Meteorology

Dr Rob Vertessy, Director of Meteorology and Chief Executive Officer

Dr Ray Canterford, Deputy Director, Hazards, Warnings and Forecasts

Ms Vicki Middleton, Deputy Director, Corporate Services

Dr Lesley Seebeck, Deputy Director, Information Systems and Services

Dr Sue Barrell, Deputy Director, Observations and Infrastructure

Clean Energy Regulator

Ms Chloe Munro, Chair and Chief Executive Officer

Ms Jody Swirepik, Executive General Manager, Regulatory Obligation and Coordination Division

Mr Mark Williamson, Executive General Manager, Scheme Entry and Entitlement Division

Mr Christopher Ramsden, Chief Operations Officer, Business Operations Division

Mr Geoff Purvis-Smith, General Counsel

Ms Jackie Raynor, General Manager, Regulatory Obligation Management and Auctions Branch

Ms Mary-Anne Wilson, General Manager, Scheme Coordination and Policy Branch

Mr Tas Sakellaris, General Manager, Assurance and Information Strategy Branch

Mr Amar Rathore, General Manager, Technical Assessment and Support Branch

Ms Michelle Crosbie, General Manager, Participation and Processing Branch

Dr Christopher Branson, General Manager, Client Education and Engagement Branch

Mr Peter Bache, General Manager, Investigations and Regulatory Support Branch

Climate Change Authority

Mr Stuart Allinson, Acting Chairman

Ms Shayleen Thompson, Acting Chief Executive Officer

Ms Kath Rowley, General Manager

Ms Lorena Arpke, Chief Financial Officer

Director of National Parks

Ms Sally Barnes, Director of National Parks

Mr Charlton Clark, Assistant Secretary, Marine Protected Areas Branch

Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority

Dr Russell Reichelt, Chairman

Mr Bruce Elliot, General Manager, Biodiversity Conservation and Sustainable Use

Ms Margaret Johnson, General Manager Policy and Stewardship

Mr Richard Quincey, Acting General Manager, Great Barrier Reef Operations

Mr Jason Davidson, Finance Manager

Australia Renewable Energy Agency

Mr Ivor Frischknecht, Chief Executive Officer

Mr Ian Kay, Chief Financial Officer

Clean Energy Finance Corporation

Ms Jillian Broadbent AM, Chair

Mr Oliver Yates, Chief Executive Officer

Ms Meg McDonald, Chief Operating Officer

Mr Andrew Powell, Chief Financial Officer

Cities and the Built Environment Taskforce

Ms Tanja Cvijanovic, Acting First Assistant Secretary

Mr James Collett, Assistant Secretary

Ms Kate Lynch, Acting Assistant Secretary

Committee met at 09:00

CHAIR ( Senator Reynolds ): I declare open this public hearing of the Senate Environment and Communications Legislation Committee. These are supplementary budget estimates proceedings and the agencies heard during these estimates are those who have been nominated by various senators. The committee has fixed Friday, 14 December 2015, as the date for the return of answers to questions taken on notice.

The committee's proceedings today will begin with general questions of the Department of the Environment and will then follow the order as set out in the program. Under standing order 26, the committee must take all evidence in public session, including answers to questions on notice. Officers and senators are familiar with the rules of the Senate governing estimates hearings. If you need assistance, the secretary has copies of the rules.

The Senate has resolved also that an officer of the department of the Commonwealth shall not be asked to give opinion on matters of policy and shall be given reasonable opportunity to refer questions asked of the officer to senior officers or to a minister. This resolution prohibits only questions asking for opinions on matters of policy and does not preclude questions asking for explanations of policies or factual questions about when and how policies were adopted. I particularly draw the attention of witnesses to an order of the Senate of 13 May 2009 specifying the process by which a claim of public interest immunity should be raised. Witnesses are specifically reminded that a statement that information or a document is confidential or consists of advice to government is not a statement that meets the requirements of the 2009 order. Instead, witnesses are required to provide some specific indication of the harm to public interest that could result from the disclosure of the information or document.

The extract read as follows—

Public interest immunity claims

That the Senate—

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

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

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

(1) If:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(13 May 2009 J.1941)

(Extract, Senate Standing Orders, pp 124-125)