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Education and Employment Legislation Committee
25/02/2015
Estimates
EDUCATION AND TRAINING PORTFOLIO

EDUCATION AND TRAINING PORTFOLIO

In Attendance

Senator Birmingham, Assistant Minister for Education and Training

Senator Ryan, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Education and Training

Department of Education

Executive

Ms Lisa Paul AO PSM, Secretary,

Mr Robert Griew Associate Secretary, Higher Education, Research and International

Mr Tony Cook, Associate Secretary, Schools and Youth

Dr Subho Banerjee, Deputy Secretary, Skills and Training

Ms Jessie Borthwick, Acting Deputy Secretary, Higher Education, Reform and Support

Cross Portfolio

Mr Simon Gotzinger, Chief lawyer, Corporate

Ms Susan Monkley, Chief Financial Officer, Finance, Parliamentary and Assurance, Corporate

Ms Michelle Cornish, Group Manager, People, Communication and Legal, Corporate

Mr Alan Grinsell-Jones, Senior Executive Lawyer, Legal Group. Communication and Legal, Corporate

Ms Jacqueline Gleeson, Branch Manager, People, Communication and Legal, Corporate

Ms Sheree Harrison, Branch Manager, Finance, Parliamentary and Assurance, Corporate

Mr Robert Latta, Branch Manager, Finance, Parliamentary and Assurance, Corporate

Schools and Youth

Ms Deb Efthymiades, Group Manager, Schooling

Ms Alex Gordon, Group Manager, Evidence and Assessment

Ms Rhyan Bloor, Branch Manager, Evidence and Assessment

Dr Gabrielle Phillips, Branch Manager, Evidence and Assessment

Dr Yvonne Dunlop, Director, Evidence and Assessment

Mr Tim Kane, Director, Evidence and Assessment

Ms Louise Hanlon, Group Manager, Workforce and Youth

Mr Patrick Burford, Branch Manager, Workforce and Youth

Ms Jan Febey, Branch Manager, Workforce and Youth

Ms Helen McLaren, Branch Manager, Workforce and Youth

Ms Alison Sewell, Director, Early Childhood Education

Higher Education, Research and International

Ms Anne Baly, Group Manager, International, Higher Education, Reform and Support

Ms Susan Bennett, Branch Manager, International, Higher Education, Reform and Support

Ms Julie Birmingham, Acting Branch Manager, Higher Education Reform Taskforce, Higher Education, Reform and Support

Mrs Marguerite de Sosua, Acting Branch Manager, Quality and Student Support, Higher Education, Reform and Support

Mr Dom English, Group Manager, Research and Strategy, Higher Education, Reform and Support

Mr Robert Griew, Deputy Secretary, Corporate, Higher Education, Reform and Support

Ms Lyndal Groom, Branch Manager, International, Higher Education, Reform and Support

Ms Virginia Hart, Branch Manager, Research and Strategy, Higher Education, Reform and Support

Mr James Hart, Acting Group Manager, Higher Education Reform Taskforce, Higher Education, Reform and Support

Ms Suzi Hewlett, Acting Group Manager, Higher Education Reform Taskforce, Higher Education, Reform and Support

Mr Ben Johnson, Branch Manager, Quality and Student Support, Higher Education, Reform and Support

Mr Adam Luckhurst, Branch Manager, International, Higher Education, Reform and Support

Ms Melissa Reardon, Acting Branch Manager, Higher Education Reform Taskforce, Higher Education, Reform and Support

Mr Craig Ritchie, Branch Manager, Higher Education Reform Taskforce, Higher Education, Reform and Support

Dr Andrew Taylor, Branch Manager, Higher Education Reform Taskforce, Higher Education, Reform and Support

Ms Di Weddell, Branch Manager, Other, Higher Education, Reform and Support

Ms Ditta Zizi, Branch Manager, Research and Strategy, Higher Education, Reform and Support

Ms Peta Furnell, General Manager, VET Reform, Skills and Training

Ms Kathryn Shugg, Branch Manager, VET Reform, Skills and Training

Mr David Turvey, Branch Manager, VET Reform, Skills and Training

Mr Brendan Morling, Group Manager, Skills Programmes, Skills and Training

Ms Linda White, Branch Manager, Skills Programmes, Skills and Training

Ms Susan Devereux, Branch Manager, Skills Programmes, Skills and Training

Mr Craig Robertson, Group Manager, Skills Policy, Skills and Training

Mr Jason Coutts, Branch Manager, Skills Policy, Skills and Training

Mr Grant Lovelock, Branch Manager, Skills Policy, Skills and Training

Dr Melissa McEwen, Branch Manager, Skills Policy, Skills and Training

Ms Anne Flynn, Acting Branch Manager, Skills Policy, Skills and Training

Portfolio Agencies

Tertiary Education Quality Standards Agency

Prof Nicholas Saunders, Acting Chief Commissioner

Australian Curriculum Assessment and Reporting Authority

Dr Phil Lambert, General Manager, Curriculum

Dr Stanley Rabinowitz, General Manager, Assessment and Reporting

Mr Robert Randall, Chief Executive Officer

Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership

Ms Margery Evans, Chief Executive Officer

Mr Edmund Misson, General Manager

Australian Research Council

Prof Aidan Byrne, Chief Executive Officer

Mrs Laura Dan, Chief Program Officer

Australian Skills and Quality Authority

Mr Justin Napier, Branch Manager

Mr Christopher Robinson, Chief Commissioner

Committee met at 09:01

CHAIR ( Senator McKenzie ): I declare open this meeting of the Senate Education and Employment Legislation Committee on Wednesday, 25 February 2015. The Senate has referred to the committee the particulars of proposed expenditure for 2014-15 and related documents for the Education and Training portfolio. The committee may also examine the annual reports of departments and agencies appearing before it. The committee has fixed Friday 17 April, 2015 as the date for the return of answers to questions on notice. Senators are reminded that any written questions on notice should be provided the committee secretariat by close of business Friday 6 March. The committees proceedings today will begin with its examination of cross portfolio and then will follow the order as set out in the circulated program.

Under standing order 26 the committee must take all evidence in public session. This includes answers to questions on notice. I remind all witnesses that in giving evidence to the committee they are protected by parliamentary privilege. It is unlawful for anyone to threaten or disadvantage a witness on account of evidence given to a committee and such action may be treated by the Senate as a contempt. It is also a contempt to give false or misleading evidence to the committee. The Senate by resolution in 1999 endorsed the following test of relevance of questions at estimates hearings: any questions going to the operations of financial positions of the departments and agencies which are seeking funds in the estimates are relevant questions for the purpose of estimates hearings. I remind officers that the Senate has resolved that there are no areas in connection with the expenditure of public funds where any person has a discretion to withhold details or explanations from the parliament or its committee unless the parliament has expressly provided otherwise. The Senate has also resolved that an officer of a department of the Commonwealth shall not be asked to give opinions on matters of policy and shall be given reasonable opportunity to refer questions asked of officers to superior officers or to a minister. This resolution prohibits only questions asking for opinions on matters of policy and does not preclude questions asking for explanations of policies or factual questions about when and how policies were adopted.

I particularly draw the attention of witnesses to an order of the Senate of 13 May, 2009 specifying the process by which a claim of public interest immunity should be raised. Witnesses are specifically reminded that stating that information or a document is confidential or consists of advice to government is not a statement that meets the requirements of the 2009 order. Instead, witnesses are required to provide some specific indication of the harm to the public interest that could result from the disclosure of information in the 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).

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