Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee
Australian Government Solicitor

Australian Government Solicitor


Senator WONG: Thank you, Chair. Mr Kingston, I have a brief set of questions which I gave you notice of about the diary case, which was in relation to the AAT representation, which I think was done in-house. Is that right?

Mr Kingston : Yes.

Senator WONG: What the costs are associated with that, not the costs as between the parties but the costs incurred by you for the representation of the Attorney?

Mr Kingston : The costs we charge a client is a question I would normally seek to take on notice.

Senator WONG: I did give you notice. I said I would be asking about the costs associated with the AAT and the full Federal Court appeal. That was some hours ago. I thought that was why you were going away and coming back.

Mr Kingston : With respect, I may have misheard you. That was not one of the questions I wrote down. I may be wrong about that, in which case I apologise.

Senator WONG: Certainly that is what I was intending. I do want to know how you cost and charge for those in-house services. Would the Attorney-General's core department receive a bill from you for the AAT?

Mr Kingston : Yes. The department on this occasion received a bill from us.

Senator WONG: In respect of what?

Mr Kingston : In respect of the work we did on the AAT matter and then subsequently the work we did on the case in the Federal Court.

Senator WONG: The full Federal Court appeal. You don't have those?

Mr Kingston : Do I have the costing?

Senator WONG: Do you have those available?

Mr Kingston : The reason I was about to say it is a question I would normally seek to take on notice is to have an opportunity to consult with the client because it would involve revealing information that is confidential to the client about what we charge them and on occasions that could adversely affect ongoing matters in relation to the matters.

Senator WONG: There are no ongoing matters in relation to this. This is the Senate estimates. This is public expenditure.

CHAIR: Let Mr Kingston finish his answer.

Senator WONG: I thought he had.

Mr Kingston : The example I was about to give, which is one reason why we would seek to consult with the client, is if, for example, paying all the costs that the other side were seeking to recover was a matter of ongoing negotiation then there could be reasons on occasions why the costs charged by the other side to their own client was not something that would want to be revealed in public until settling the winning side's costs had been resolved. In this case, there are ongoing discussions with Mr Dreyfus about the costs he is seeking to recover in relation to the court case. That is one example why, in relation to confidential information like that, we would normally seek to consult with our client first, who may say, 'Go ahead and disclose the costs,' which is fine, but it is something as lawyers, as distinct from officials in the department, for example, would normally seek to do.

Senator WONG: And you have not done that.

Mr Kingston : No. As I said, rightly or wrongly, the cost question was not one of the questions I wrote down.

Senator WONG: I hope this does not end up with further matters having to come before the Senate. Do you want to take it on notice or can you come back at 10 o'clock after you have had a chance to have a conversation with the Attorney?

Mr Kingston : I will take it on notice.

Senator WONG: What can you tell me?

Mr Kingston : What would you like to know?

Senator WONG: What do you think you took on notice about six hours ago?

Mr Kingston : What I thought I took on notice was how was counsel in the Federal Court chosen. The answer to that is that counsel was nominated by the Attorney's office to solicitors at AGS who were acting.

Senator WONG: This is Mr Pizer?

Mr Kingston : Yes.

Senator WONG: He is Melbourne based.

Mr Kingston : Correct.

Senator WONG: The hearings were in Sydney.

Mr Kingston : Yes.

Senator WONG: There were no Sydney silks that were any good?

Mr Kingston : I do not know. I am simply saying that we were informed of the choice of counsel by our client—

Senator WONG: Who is the Attorney.

Mr Kingston : who is a QC, Mr Pizer—

Senator WONG: No, your client is the Attorney. So he chose Mr Pizer.

Mr Kingston : No, our client through the Attorney's office. What happened within the Attorney's office about that I am not privy to and nor was AGS.

Senator WONG: Who is your client?

Mr Kingston : The client is the Attorney.

Senator WONG: Correct. That is what I just said.

Mr Kingston : Yes, but what I said earlier was that we were told by the Attorney's office.

Senator WONG: I know that. So his office told you on his behalf who he had chosen who happened to be someone from Melbourne.

Mr Kingston : All I can say in terms of what we know is that the Attorney's office informed us—

Senator WONG: Can we not play these word games. If you had any doubt that that was actually who the Attorney wanted because he is your client, you were not rectify that—correct?

Mr Kingston : What I am trying to do is explain the communications that we had without adding to it or making further assumptions. The communication we had was with the Attorney's office. I fully accept, in all likelihood, and where you are entitled to assume that was with the agreement of the Attorney—

Senator WONG: Thank you, I am so pleased.

Mr Kingston : but it is an assumption I make; it is not something I know for a fact.

Senator WONG: I do not want to go down this rabbit hole, but you, I assume, are a senior enough lawyer and, if you thought that assumption was doubtful, you would not have acted upon it and we would not have had to spend a number of questions and answers in estimates having a conversation about it. Are you able to tell us Pizer's costs?

CHAIR: Senator, in fairness, Mr Kingston is simply saying he did not speak to the Attorney's office. To suggest alternative arrangements to Mr Kingston—

Senator WONG: I am not. No-one is suggesting it.

CHAIR: is not appropriate.

Senator WONG: Can we get off this?

Senator Brandis: I think—

CHAIR: No, please, Senator Brandis. Let's just keep—

Senator WONG: I just want to ask a question about money.

CHAIR: Yes, okay. Ask the question.

Senator WONG: Thank you. How much did Mr Pizer cost?

Mr Kingston : That does go to the question you just—

Senator WONG: I gave you notice of this.

CHAIR: Mr Kingston has already said he will take that on notice. He has given the reason why he wants to take it on notice.

Senator WONG: Chair, there were two different issues. One was the AAT and then there was the Full Federal Court. His answers in respect to the first matter were in relation to the AAT. I am now asking about Pizer and I thought I was very clear. You are shaking your head, Mr Moraitis.

Mr Moraitis : I cannot comment, Senator.

Senator WONG: Do we want to come back at 10? Is that what we want to do? Let him tell us how much money you spent.

Mr Kingston : Senator, I am in your hands and I am not—

Senator WONG: Trying to be difficult.

Mr Kingston : perhaps contrary to the impression I have given you, trying to be difficult.

Senator WONG: I might be mistaken, but it looks like it.

CHAIR: Senator Wong, I will not have you accusing. I have never met Mr Kingston before, but clearly he is a very dedicated lawyer and is not in the political game. He is trying to be helpful, he is trying to tell you what he does, his ethics as a lawyer, and I think that, as far as that goes, to cast aspersions on his answers is totally inappropriate. Do that to the Attorney, if you want to.

Senator WONG: He said he is not trying to be difficult and I said I might be mistaken but it looks like it. So you are not going to tell me that either?

Senator Brandis: Mr Chairman, I object to Senator Wong berating Mr Kingston. Mr Kingston—

CHAIR: Thanks, Senator Brandis. I have already indicated that. Your raising it is not going to—

Senator Brandis: It is completely inappropriate for a professional man to be attacked in this manner.

CHAIR: I have already said that.

Senator WONG: Senator Brandis, will you allow the witness to answer how much it cost for you to defend this FOI claim which you lost? Will you allow him to answer that?

CHAIR: That is not a question.

Senator Brandis: That is not an appropriate question.

Senator WONG: It is a question to him. Of course it is an entirely appropriate question.

Senator Brandis: It is not a proper question, Senator, because, as you know, as a former minister for finance, better than anybody in this room, the rates charged by council to the Commonwealth are always treated as commercial-in-confidence. You know that for a fact, so the fact that you mock—

Senator WONG: You have got to be kidding! You spent taxpayers' money on defending a claim you then lost and you won't tell us how much it was.

Senator Brandis: You know that to be true, Senator Wong.

Senator WONG: Let's be clear: you won't tell us how much it was. Three years to defend, the Full Federal Court, and you will not tell us.

CHAIR: Hang on, it is impossible for Hansard to record this, for a start. You asked a question. Senator Brandis is answering it. Let him finish and then we will come back to you, Senator Wong.

Senator WONG: Okay.

CHAIR: Had you finished, Senator Brandis?

Senator Brandis: No, I had not. As Senator Wong knows better than anybody in this room as a former minister for finance, rates charged to the Commonwealth by council have always been treated as commercial-in-confidence.

Senator WONG: Untrue. Untrue.

Senator Brandis: The question that I am being asked invites me to take a decision on the spot, as it were, to depart from what has been the longstanding practice of the Commonwealth—

Senator WONG: That is untrue.

Senator Brandis: and I am not prepared to do that. I am prepared to consider it, but I am not prepared, on the run, to make a decision to abandon or depart from the longstanding practice of the Commonwealth.

Senator WATT: [inaudible] that practice start?

CHAIR: In addition to that—

Senator Brandis: Can I respond to Senator Watt?

CHAIR: Minister, I am speaking. In addition to that, Mr Kingston, as a professional lawyer, wants to speak to his client, which happens to be you, and I am sure he does not want to do it in a public venue on national TV or something. It is something he said he will take on notice . He will no doubt, in the course of taking it on notice, consult with his client and come back with an answer to the committee. I do not think we can take it much further than that.

Senator WONG: Let's be clear: what I am seeking is all costs incurred by AGS in the course of representing the Attorney-General and his chief of staff in both the AAT and the Federal Court proceedings, and—

Senator Brandis: I understand what you are asking—

Senator WONG: I am just putting it on notice. Can we please just let me do that and then we can move on?

CHAIR: These are being put on notice.

Senator WONG: Thank you. That is what I am seeking. I want to—

CHAIR: Please go ahead.

Senator WONG: Thank you.

CHAIR: Please do not interrupt, Attorney.

Senator WONG: I am clarifying that. Second, I would ask, in terms of the consideration of that, there are these taxpayers' funds associated with an action that the Attorney ultimately lost, to disclose aspects of his diary for a period of time—

CHAIR: We are aware of the case.

Senator WONG: What I would put to the Attorney and the department is that there is no reason that this expenditure of public funds ought to be kept hidden from the public.

CHAIR: Senator, Mr Kingston is taking your question on notice. He is not hiding anything.

Senator WONG: Sure, and I am putting the argument—

Senator Brandis: Senator Wong is being argumentative. She is not asking questions.

CHAIR: I well appreciate that.

Senator WONG: Can I just ask one last thing?


Senator WONG: Thank you.

Senator Brandis: And I want to answer Senator Watt's question, if I may.

CHAIR: It is not for you to ask questions, Senator Brandis.

Senator Brandis: No, no. I am just saying: Senator Watt asked me a question—

CHAIR: I have some questions I want to ask but—

Senator WONG: I am trying to finish this—

CHAIR: Yes, please.

Senator WONG: because I am conscious that you were very courteous in letting me interpose here. Did you understand yourself to have taken anything else on notice?

Mr Kingston : Yes. I thought you also asked who was instructing AGS in relation to the AAT proceeding.

Senator WONG: Yes.

Mr Kingston : The answer to that is the Attorney-General's office.

Senator WONG: What does that mean, the 'office'? The office is not a person, is it?

Mr Kingston : No. Primarily they came—

Senator Brandis: Well, the Attorney-General is not a person either. The Attorney-General is an office.

CHAIR: Please, Senator Brandis. We can be here all night or we can get this over and done with very quickly. It is being taken on notice.

Senator WONG: Can we not be pompous for two minutes and I can finish my question?

Senator Brandis: Well, you are making a point about the proper legal personality—

Senator WONG: Yes, yes, you are very intelligent, George. You are really smart. Can I just ask my question now?

Senator Brandis: of the Attorney-General's office, and I am making a complementary observation about the status of the office holder.

Senator WONG: Mr Kingston?

Mr Kingston : Primarily for the AAT matter those instructions came through the then chief of staff, Paul O'Sullivan.

Senator WONG: Is there anything else in response to that question?

Mr Kingston : No.

Senator WONG: Was there any other question you thought you took on notice?

Mr Kingston : No.

Senator WONG: All right. I have one other question, if I may, which is about your merger into AGD. Is that the best way to describe it? How would you like me to describe it?

Mr Kingston : It is a perfectly acceptable way to describe it.

Senator WONG: Is that effectively complete—systems are all integrated et cetera?

Mr Moraitis : Not completely integrated. The AGS is a separate group within the department and operates as a legal practice. They would not share information or issues of their clients with the department.

Senator WONG: Sorry. I just meant in terms of what you set out to do to ensure the merger was completed. Have all of those things been done? I understand there is a sort of functional separation for legal reasons.

Mr Moraitis : Yes. There was legislation passed and it has all been achieved.

Mr Kingston : Yes, 95 per cent. There are some small issues in terms of non-legal functions, about further fully integrating them with AGD, but the vast bulk of it—

Senator WONG: These are like the back office—

Mr Moraitis : In terms of property and back office, corporate-type things. That seems to be going pretty well as well.

Senator WONG: What was the change in ASL for AGS as a result of that—

CHAIR: Senator Wong, if you are going to do that, we will have to come back. I am sorry.

Senator WONG: I am happy to put them on notice.

CHAIR: Okay. Put them on notice.

Mr Moraitis : If I can assist—


Senator WONG: There really are only two questions, Chair.

CHAIR: Mr Moraitis, the AGS is on at 10 o'clock and other programs before then. We agreed to have Mr Kingston come in on the basis of the undertaking from Senator Wong that it would only be for a couple of answers relating to the diary case. We have had those. Mr Kingston has taken them on notice. If we are going any further, I am afraid we will have to come back at 10.

Senator WONG: I had two questions. If you do not want me to do them, can I just put them on notice?

CHAIR: On notice, you said?

Senator WONG: I am happy to do them on notice. They are very quick questions.

CHAIR: Well, put them on notice.

Senator WONG: It was changes to the ASL in the AGS as a result of the merger and savings that you can attribute to the merger. Are they able to be answered?

Mr Moraitis : Yes, as best we can. On the second point, in particular, we will try our best. On the first point—

CHAIR: Mr Moraitis, I do wish you would listen to the ruling I have made, and that is that they are taken on notice, not to be answered now. If they are to be answered now, we will stay until 10 o'clock.

Senator WONG: Neither of us were seeking to have them answered now. I just was wondering if the way in which I had expressed them was the way in which the department—

CHAIR: I apologise if I have got that wrong. You have taken them on notice?

Senator WONG: Yes. Thanks.

CHAIR: Before you go, Mr Kingston, can I put some questions about the case on notice as well. I understand Mr Dreyfus is claiming costs from the government as a result of his successful prosecution of the case. Could you tell me the costs involved and what is being claimed? Could you tell me which counsel Mr Dreyfus engaged, which solicitors he engaged, what his bill of costs against the Commonwealth constitutes—the total amount—the amount he has charged for solicitors and for barristers and whether they are QCs? I understand Mr Dreyfus led the case himself as a QC but I understand he also had junior counsel and solicitors there. Could we get details of those? I am asking you to take those on notice and, when you are returning to Senator Wong on notice, you can give me those on notice and some comments about the claim.

Senator WONG: I have one more thing on notice just on this.

CHAIR: Let me—

Senator WONG: Sorry, I thought you had finished, Chair.

CHAIR: I thought Mr Kingston was trying to say something.

Mr Kingston : We will certainly take those on notice, Senator. One thing I would flag, and it may pass with time, it is that I think there are without prejudice discussions between the parties at the moment about those costs.

CHAIR: Mr Kingston, you did make that clear to Senator Wong, and that is why you are cautious to respond. But, in the same context as Senator Wong, if you are answering Senator Wong's you are answering mine; if you cannot answer Senator Wong's you cannot answer mine.

Mr Kingston : We will certainly take that on notice.

CHAIR: It is apples with apples. Was there a clarification, Senator Wong?

Senator WONG: In light of what the Attorney said, can the department explain why legal costs have been previously disclosed—for example, in relation to the Timor-Leste arbitration between 2013 and 2014?

CHAIR: Do you understand what that means, Mr Kingston? I do not. If you do, that is all we need.

Senator WONG: He has told us costs before on other matters. That is what it means.

Senator Brandis: Chair, may I ask Senator Watt a question?

Senator Brandis: Senator Watt asked me a question before.

CHAIR: Does it involve the AGS?

Senator Brandis: Yes. Chair, in the course of the earlier discussion I made the point that it has not been the practice of the Commonwealth to disclose the costs of counsel and I said that Senator Wong, as a former finance minister, should know that better than anyone else. Senator Wong disputed that and Senator Watt asked me, 'For how long do you say that has been the practice?' or words to that effect. The answer to Senator Watt's question is: I do not know when the practice began but it has certainly been the practice for as long as I have participated in the affairs of this committee, which was during the Howard government. It was certainly the practice of the Labor government. For example, on 27 May 2008 this committee put a question on notice in relation to the Clarke inquiry, which was, as I recall, the inquiry into the Haneef affair. It asked,

What is Mr Horan’s—

that was the barrister—

daily rate of pay as counsel assisting in the Clarke Inquiry?

to which the then Attorney-General, Mr McClelland, replied:

It has not been the Department’s practice to disclose the rates paid to lawyers engaged by the Commonwealth. The Commonwealth regularly engages lawyers and others for inquiries and litigation. Disclosure of rates in particular cases may prejudice the Commonwealth’s commercial position.

That is the position as I—

CHAIR: Thank you, Senator Brandis. You have answered Senator Watt's question. Mr Kingston, you are excused. Thank you for coming. Nobody else has questions for you. You have got the questions we wanted on that particular issue, so you may leave.

Senator WONG: Chair, can I just put one point. I have asked the question in a form which would permit aggregate costs. So if the issue is on the basis that the Attorney has just outlined, if there is an issue of concern there—and I do not necessarily accept that—that is, the rate of a particular barrister, then the way in which I have asked the question contemplates an aggregate cost answer.

CHAIR: Senator Pratt.

Senator PRATT: Senator Hume was asking some questions about the Safer Communities Fund. I note that the fund was an election commitment of the coalition to provide $40 million for community safety projects. What advice, if any, did the department provide on which projects were selected for funding through the fund?

Ms Hawkins : As I think I said in the answer to the previous question, those 71 commitments were an election commitment. In terms of advice from the department, I also mentioned that now that the government has these grants hubs, the process of going through the applications was done by the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science. That comes back to us to put up to the minister.

Senator PRATT: Because it was an election commitment, the organisations and the projects were hand-picked by government around the country, were they?

Ms Hawkins : Those ones were an election commitment, yes.

Senator PRATT: So no-one else could apply? Only the organisations that were specifically identified in the 2016 election could apply? Or the projects that were identified might have a range of organisations that could have put their hand up for them? How does that work? Were the organisations identified, or were the projects identified and you then had to find an organisation to auspice them?

Ms Hawkins : The organisations were identified.

Senator PRATT: How many of the 71 that were identified actually applied for funding in round 1 through that grants hub?

Ms Hawkins : The 71 that were in the election commitment, those 71 councils and community organisations that received that commitment from the government, were all invited to submit an application under round 1 of the program, and applications were received for all the 71 commitments.

Senator PRATT: In terms of the standard of those applications—

Ms Hawkins : That is delivering projects for all 71 commitments, and they were awarded to 65 organisations, on the advice I have.

Senator PRATT: So there are six that missed out.

Ms Hawkins : There were a number of organisations that were delivering multiple commitments. Hence, the 71 commitments and 65 organisations that were delivering the projects for the 71 commitments.

Senator PRATT: So the 65 applications are for 71 projects?

Ms Hawkins : Yes.

Senator PRATT: There was no-one who failed to apply?

Ms Hawkins : That's right.

Senator PRATT: What is the objective threshold in terms of whether there was value for money in those contracts, or whether someone could have competitively tendered to do the same work?

Ms Hawkins : As we have just described, because of the way this particular grant program, the Safer Communities Fund, was set up, implementing an election commitment about those commitments specifically, in the guidelines that were then done to implement that election commitment it was clear that you had to be one of those organisations to apply for this grant round.

Senator PRATT: How was that costed? There was no competitive tendering, so what was done to ensure that that was costed appropriately? Is the $40 million just an arbitrary figure for the 71 projects? How do we know we are getting value for money?

Ms Hawkins : There are guidelines that state the criteria that organisations have to meet. Then, in terms of the department of industry's assessment of the applications, they then have a scale that they have developed to rank how people have gone in terms of implementing the guidelines. Then it depended on the amount of money that the organisations have actually sought for all of those things that we were talking about before such as security, infrastructure, lighting, fencing, CCTVs. People sought funding for different parts of that safer community infrastructure.

Senator PRATT: I am still not very clear on how you have priced that, sorry.

Mr Lodge : The department of industry, as part of its assessment of those applications, would review documents provided by organisations and provide an assessment of value for money and, as far as I understand it, would score applicants on the level of value for money and provide recommendations about funding.

Senator PRATT: That scoring of the applicants was done during the election period when they were hand-picked. You had already picked the applicants. I am unclear how this so-called scale would apply to applicants that were already told they would be funded for the project.

Ms Hawkins : In terms of having the guidelines, it is one thing to have a commitment for a fund of $40 million, but then in terms of getting to the heart of your questions about how you know that that is value for money, that is why you have the guidelines that say, 'You need to meet these criteria in order to get the money. So the fact that there is a commitment for this $40 million for the Safer Communities Fund—as you rightly say, you have to meet criteria still to be able to get the money, and that is where the value for money comes in. I think in terms of your question about the quantum, that is an election commitment for the government to decide that it has this $40 million to do Safer Communities work.

Senator PRATT: All of these 71 projects that had already been invited to apply met this accountable funding formula?

Ms Hawkins : As we were saying before—and we should say it again for clarity—in April when the funding was awarded it was $9.4 million for this first round. There is a second round. Arrangements for the second round are being finalised and there will be a second round for this; it will open later in the year.

Senator PRATT: Are those 71 projects all part of the first round?

Ms Hawkins : Part of the first round, that is right.

Senator PRATT: And are the next round competitively tendered or are they also election commitments?

Ms Hawkins : As I said, the arrangements for the second round are still being finalised.

Senator PRATT: So you do not know who is eligible to apply—whether it is hand-picked by coalition members of parliament or whether all communities around the country will have a chance to apply?

Ms Hawkins : As I say, what that second round will look like is still being finalised. It will ultimately be a matter for the minister to decide what that looks like. At the moment we are focusing on round 1.

Senator PRATT: Do you have before you a range of other coalition election commitments with regard to these kinds of projects? Do you only have 71 of them before you that were in the form of election commitments? Are there more election commitments that you have rattling around the office in terms of things that would generally have been part of the Safer Communities announcements made by members of parliament?

Ms Hawkins : The Safer Communities Fund is a $40 million election commitment.

Senator PRATT: Yes, but you said you have spent $9 million of that?

Ms Hawkins : Sorry, we have done the first round, so the $9 million is the first tranche under the $40 million fund.

Senator PRATT: The $9 million funded the 71 organisations. So, of the $31 million remaining, are there another 300 coalition election commitments still to be met?

Ms Hawkins : No.

Senator PRATT: So the 71 was all of them?

Ms Hawkins : All of those commitments that were made at the election, yes, that is right.

Senator PRATT: So that has exhausted the election commitments. So you would expect that the rest will be competitive in some way, or will they be hand-picked by coalition MPs and you will get a list from the government to have another joke of a process like this?

Ms Hawkins : I understand your question is asking, 'What is going to be the nature of the second round?' and I just cannot give you anything further than: it is under consideration and it will be finalised later this year.

Senator PRATT: Thank you very much. I wanted to briefly clarify something I asked in relation to the firearms amnesty, if you do not mind.

I think you said there are more than 200,000 firearms—

Ms Rose : In the illicit market, yes.

Senator PRATT: Yes.

Ms Rose : That is the ACIC figure.

Senator PRATT: I think the ACIC says there are between 200,000 and 600,000.

Mr Bouwhuis : I think it was 250,000 long arms and 10,000 handguns from memory.

Senator PRATT: You do not expect there would be up to 600,000?

Ms Rose : Just illicit?

Senator PRATT: Yes.

Mr Bouwhuis : Sorry, Senator, was your question: do we expect there would be up to 600,000?

Senator PRATT: I am told reliably that ACIC says that there are between 200,000 and 600,000 illicit firearms.

Ms Rose : We have the conservative estimate—they say it is the conservative estimate. They say 260,000 but they are on tomorrow and so we can ask them then.

Senator PRATT: My point of clarification briefly was: are there 50,000 or 200,000 firearms to be handed back? Are the arrangements to destroy them essentially a logistical problem for the states and not for the Commonwealth?

Mr Bouwhuis : It is primarily a matter for the states. I would not say it is of no interest to us. We discussed in the working group the methods used to destroy firearms and so I would not say that it is of no interest to us, but it is primarily a question for the states and territories because they have taken on that aspect.

Senator PRATT: How are you managing the relativities of the scale of the potential disposal?

Mr Bouwhuis : Each jurisdiction is managing it. Some have current mechanisms in place; some are putting those in place, but each is managing that. We touch base with them through the working group about how they are going with that and no-one has flagged any particular problems. People generally know what the figures are in the illegal market from the ACIC figures. We are all working of the same estimates and so we are not anticipating any particular logistical problems.

Senator PRATT: Earlier you said you did not have an estimate of how many you were expecting to be disposed of or returned through the amnesty. What are the ballpark figures of that estimate?

Mr Bouwhuis : To be clear, I do not have a figure for how many were estimated. The figure we were providing was for how many illicit firearms are estimated in the current market. I want to emphasise that that is a very rough estimate by the ACIC. They will be on tomorrow and so you can ask them for further information about that figure and how they derived it.

Senator PRATT: So you do not have a ballpark figure or even arrange for how many firearms the country may need to dispose of?

Mr Bouwhuis : We do not have figure, and any figure would be entirely speculative.

Senator PRATT: I was just wanting to make sure I understood your answer.

Senator WATT: I have a few other questions about firearms. You are probably aware that earlier in the year some amendments were passed in the Senate to the firearms trafficking bill and those amendments, among other things, added aggravated offences for trafficking 50 or more firearms or parts with maximum sentence of life imprisonment. The amendments also increase the maximum penalty for basic firearms trafficking offences from 10 years to 30 years. Senator Brandis, this is probably best directed to you: will the government support this bill as amended? My recollection is that the government did support those amendments to the firearms trafficking bill in the Senate, though I might be wrong there.

Senator Brandis: I will just get that checked.

Senator WATT: Regardless of whether the government supported it or not, the amendments were passed by the Senate, so my question is: will the government support the bill as amended in the lower house?

Senator Brandis: This is a matter being handled by Mr Keenan, so I will check with his office.

Senator WATT: Are you not aware?

Senator Brandis: Yes. I am advised that the Labor amendment in the Senate weakened the bill by removing the mandatory minimum sentences. When the bill comes back to the House of Representatives we will be amending it to restore the mandatory minimum sentences.

Senator WATT: So you will be opposing the increase in sentences from 10 to 30 years?

Senator Brandis: We will be strengthening the bill by moving to reinstate in the bill the mandatory minimum sentence provision that the Labor Party removed in the Senate.

Senator WATT: Will you be supporting the addition of aggravated offences for trafficking 50 or more firearms or parts?

Senator Brandis: We supported those other amendments, so I think the answer is yes.

Senator WATT: Do you know when the government intends to progress that bill in the lower house?

Senator Brandis: I cannot immediately tell you what the forward sitting program of the House of Representatives is, so I will have to take that on notice.

Senator WATT: It is obviously sometime that that bill has been back in the lower house, and every day that passes is a day that we do not have those aggravated offences. So I am just wondering if the government sees that as a legislative priority.

Senator Brandis: In the government's opinion it is important to have the sentence provisions in the bill to be as strong as they need to be. In the government's opinion, the bill was weakened by your amendments in the Senate, removing the mandatory minimum sentence period. You say that you introduced an alternative sentencing formula, and I understand that. But it is our view that the bill is materially weaker as a result of the position the Labor Party took. Therefore, we will be moving, when the bill comes again before the lower house, to restore the mandatory minimum sentence provisions. No doubt that will go through and will come back to the Senate, and it will be up to the Labor Party I suppose to decide whether it wants to persist with its policy intention of weakening this bill.

Senator WATT: Or, conversely, whether the government wants to support an increase in the maximum penalty for offences—

Senator Brandis: Well, you can play word games, but I think the public knows what mandatory minimum sentences mean.

Senator WATT: I suppose we will just have to disagree on that one. Mr Moraitis, has the department provided any advice on the firearms trafficking bill to the government since those amendments were made?

Mr Moraitis : I will ask Mr Bouwhuis or Mr Gray to answer that.

Mr Bouwhuis : Could you be more specific?

Senator WATT: The amendments were passed in the Senate and the bill has been returned to the House of Reps for consideration, so my question simply is: since those amendments were made and the legislation as amended passed by the Senate, has the department provided any further advice to the government regarding that bill on any matter?

Mr Bouwhuis : I think it is easier to perhaps just take it on notice, because your question is broad. We have obviously communicated about the bill or whatever, but perhaps it is easiest if I just take that on notice.

Senator WATT: Okay. And I understand that you will not be able to tell us what the advice was. I want to ask about another topic, the Safer Streets Program.

Ms Rose : Coming back to a similar subject, Senator Pratt, we would like to correct something that was previously indicated by Ms Hawkins on the second round.

Ms Hawkins : It has been drawn to my attention—and I am grateful to my team, who are monitoring—that in fact, following the first round, which, as you have pointed out, was a non-competitive round, there will be opportunities for open competitive funding arrangements for further rounds under the Safer Communities Fund.

Senator PRATT: Do you have any idea when that will be announced?

Ms Hawkins : The details of it remain the same. It will be later in 2017. The details of when that will happen are not finalised.

Senator PRATT: I appreciate that.

Senator WATT: My apologies. I am happy to keep going with Safer Streets, but I realise there is one other question I need to ask about firearms, so we might get those people back as well. Regarding the Safer Streets Program, in May last year Minister Keenan made an announcement in Townsville and committed $2.7 million in community safety funding for Queensland through the Queensland Police-Citizens Youth Welfare Association. In that announcement, the minister announced:

The funding will create new Youth Support Officer positions to provide dedicated post-program support to Project Booyah graduates in seven locations across Queensland, including Townsville, Cairns, Rockhampton, Mount Isa, Wooldridge, Nerang and Palm Beach-Elanora.

Can you advise whether that funding has been provided?

Ms Hawkins : I have lists of various things, but I think for the specific question you are asking it might be best for us to take it on notice.

Senator WATT: Okay.

CHAIR: I suspect the answer is yes, because I think I had something to do with the announcement.

Mr Lodge : I suspect that the funding will have commenced, but, as it is often provided against milestone payments, we will take on notice whether the balance of the funding has been provided.

Senator WATT: If you could. I can only assume that I am asking this question because the funding has not been provided. If it has not been provided, could you advise why it was not included in the 2017-18 budget.

Ms Hawkins : We will take that on notice.

Senator WATT: Additionally, when will it be provided? If it is not being provided, could you advise why the government has cancelled this commitment. Are you aware of any decision to cancel that commitment?

Ms Hawkins : I have lists of what is funded, but I will take it on notice because of the amount of detail I have here—you can imagine, with all these grants programs, there is a limit to what we bring up. We have a lot of lists of who was funded, but to drill down to that next layer we will answer that on notice.

Senator WATT: That would be great.

CHAIR: It is a hypothetical, really, because it assumes it has not been paid. Every day I announce commitments and funding for promises that Ewen Jones made and they are all being delivered, so Even Jones is still delivering for Townsville.

Senator WATT: Let's hope that one is being delivered as well. That is all I have on Safer Streets. Again, my apologies to the firearms people, but I have one more question on that topic.

CHAIR: I indicate to the Australian government disaster relief financial support people, who are here, that you owe the committee a nice bottle of red wine, because you can go. We do not need you. There are some questions, but we will put them on notice. So anyone who is here for that category, subject to your approval, Mr Moraitis, does not need to stay any longer.

Senator WATT: I am not sure whether you are aware of this, but at the last estimates, in February, we asked the Federal Police commissioner some questions about cuts that were being made to funding for the Federal Police. We asked him for some information about what aspects of his service would need to be targeted in order to bear those cuts. From memory, we were advised that the AFP was looking at a funding cut of about $6.3 million in 2016-17. I think that might have been for one program, but the commissioner did mention the programs that the Federal Police ran to target illicit gun crime as an area that the Federal Police would need to cut back on in order to absorb that cut to its funding. Are you aware that the Federal Police had to cut back on that program?

Mr Bouwhuis : Obviously, it is a question that they can talk to you about tomorrow.

Senator WATT: We will talk to them about that tomorrow.

Mr Bouwhuis : But I thought that a response had been prepared to that question on notice.

Senator WATT: Certainly there are a range of questions we can ask the Federal Police tomorrow, but I am asking you because, from a policy point of view, I am interested in your view of the impact on gun control, illicit gun crime and firearms trafficking of that cut that the Federal Police intends to make.

Mr Bouwhuis : Obviously, my view is not particularly pertinent—it is not relevant to the question, but perhaps I can answer it by saying I have seen the answer to the question and I understand that they will be in a position to respond to that tomorrow.

Senator WATT: Has your department considered the impact of that cut to the Federal Police funding on firearms trafficking?

Mr Bouwhuis : We have not specifically, no.

Senator WATT: You have not provided any advice that it is likely to lead to an increase in firearms trafficking?

Mr Bouwhuis : No.

Senator WATT: Or illicit firearms within the community?

Mr Bouwhuis : No.

Senator WATT: So you have not considered that?

Mr Bouwhuis : I have not provided any advice on funding to the AFP because, obviously, that is a matter for them. I have not been asked to advise and I have not provided any advice.

Senator WATT: But it is correct to say that part of the responsibility of your section of the department is to consider and provide advice on measures that can prevent firearms trafficking?

Mr Bouwhuis : We provide advice on firearms policy, yes, that is correct.

Senator WATT: More generally, beyond firearms, I am not sure whether it is your part of the department that considers criminal justice policy in general, but one of the other measures that the commissioner advised would need to be taken was a cutback to the National Anti-Gang Taskforce. Has there been any work done by your department to consider the impact of this cut on agencies' ability to fight gangs, including bikie gangs?

Ms Rose : Not that I know of. I would probably like to take that on notice because I am not aware of the specific cuts that the commissioner was proposing. Certainly the agencies that are in the portfolio that have more of an operational viewpoint, such as the ACIC and the AFP and other areas, are all joint members of those task forces and they would absolutely have a view on whether that would impact on the outcomes. So, if you do not mind, we might take that on notice.

Senator WATT: Okay. That is it from us for group 2.

CHAIR: With your approval, Mr Moraitis, anyone from group 2 can leave. We are now onto group 3, national security and emergency management, although I think we have sent the emergency management people home. On programs 1.2 and 1.7, Senator Pratt.

Senator PRATT: I have some questions regarding programs countering violent extremism. I want to begin by asking what importance the government places on programs to counter violent extremism in the fight against terrorism here in Australia.

Ms Jones : Countering violent extremism programs is one the fundamental pillars of our approach to counterterrorism in Australia. In the 2015 Counter Terrorism Strategy, counter narratives and countering violent extremism are two of the top priorities out of five priorities in the Counter Terrorism Strategy that were listed. We have progressed a range of initiatives in relation to countering violent extremism, in terms of developing a much more sophisticated approach to understanding the impact of extremist narrative on social media, and developing responses to that. We have rolled out, in collaboration with the states and the territories, intervention programs in all states and territories now to enable people to be supported, through a range of activities, to be deradicalised where they have been at risk or have been radicalised. There was a COAG taskforce, the CVE Task Force, that implemented a range of initiatives as agreed by COAG, over the course of 2016, relating to initiatives in the health, education and intervention space, working with the states and territories. There are other initiatives we have been doing in terms of building a much stronger evidence base around countering violent extremism, developing a national evaluation framework, so that we can actually test the impact of our CVE programs. As tasked by the Prime Minister, we were also asked to look at issues around mental health and radicalisation. So we have been doing a quite lot of work with mental health practitioners and peak bodies, to think about issues associated with that.

Senator PRATT: How important are the families and friends of people who might have someone in their circle who they think is being influenced by violent extremist ideas to being able to refer people into these support networks and programs?

Ms Jones : Very significantly important. Many of our approaches are around what can be done to support families, in terms of being able to reach out to the appropriate services. I should say, the vast majority of these types of services are state and territory government run services. There are strategies in order to help families identify where they can go to get assistance. There is work also underway, in terms of developing a support line through the New South Wales government to enable families to be able to reach out and get further support. We have been assisting and supporting New South Wales in the development of that. Victoria, similarly, has mechanisms that they have developed for families to be able to reach out and get assistance when they are concerned about particularly their young children.

Senator PRATT: In terms of their being state and territory programs, does that mean they are also funded by state and territory governments? What proportion of that funding comes from the Commonwealth? I would have to take it on notice to give you the proportion breakdown between Commonwealth and state. I might ask Mr Carpay to give you the dollar amount in terms of the Commonwealth contribution, but all states and territories themselves also contribute funding for countering violent extremism programs.

Senator PRATT: In matched fundings, in agreed arrangements? Or in separate projects?

Ms Jones : We certainly work together to ensure our funding is channelled consistently, but it is not strictly matched funding.

Senator PRATT: So they are siloed separate projects? Or you might be funding the same program? That is not necessarily a bad thing; you do need different sources of funding sometimes to make things viable. I am just trying to work it out. When you say that the states are running these programs and funding them, does that mean the Commonwealth might be funding them but the state is managing the contractual oversight for them?

Ms Jones : There are combinations in that. I can give you an example: with the intervention program, we funded a lot of the work associated with developing the risk assessment tools and rolling out training. We fund coordinators in each jurisdiction. The coordinators are the conduit between law enforcement and going out to the correct services that can assist particular individuals who are at risk.

We sit down with the states and the territories and we work out what the services are that they have available. Then we supplement with coordinating and also by doing materials that should be used in all states and territories. We want to avoid each state developing bespoke support materials.

Senator PRATT: With referral to these programs, how easy is it for a parent or a community member to have someone referred to a program and get the kind of support they were looking for to deradicalise that family member? Are there waiting lists? Is it easy to get support if you are worried about something like this?

Ms Jones : We recognise that there are some sensitivities in families readily being able to identify how to access services. Families will not necessarily want to go to law enforcement—

Senator PRATT: I understand that.

Ms Jones : There is a range of avenues where they can access support. We have done a lot of work with the education sector over the last 12 to 18 months, with school leadership—principals and others—to ensure that they are aware of services, as well as materials for classroom teachers. They have a couple of purposes: firstly, to help assist in recognising the signs of radicalisation and, secondly, knowing what to do about it once they have recognised those signs.

Senator PRATT: You mentioned before a range of state government programs. I can understand concern in families about just going straight to law enforcement. Are there many not-for-profits or community organisations that people find an easier pathway into a trusting relationship with mental health professionals and others to start to deal with these issues with an individual or a family?

Ms Jones : There are. There is a range of community organisations, some of which have received funding from us through the Living Safe Together program. The key purpose of that program was to build capability in community organisations which would mean they would be better equipped to support families and individuals that were at risk or who had become radicalised.

Senator PRATT: Do you think that everyone who feels they need that kind of support in the community can get it currently?

Ms Jones : It is always difficult to be definitive about that. I suspect that sometimes there are challenges in knowing exactly which the right service is for a particular individual.

Senator PRATT: But are there enough services available in terms of there being a high priority in funding and making these services available?

Ms Jones : I think we are probably at a point—what I often say about our countering violent extremism effort is that it is maturing but it is still a relatively new area, not only in building the capability within government but also within community organisations. I think that in the particular areas we are most concerned about, where we are seeing the greatest prevalence of people who have been susceptible to radicalisation, there has been a significant increase in services that are equipped and capable to assist individuals there. Potentially, we would like to work with more organisations, and we do that in collaboration with the states and the territories.

Senator PRATT: So, if I as an MP have someone come to me saying they are looking for support for a family member because they believe they might have extremist violent views developing, what advice should I be giving them?

Ms Jones : We would suggest that, at first instance, we would want them to be in touch with the intervention coordinator in that state. We could assist with information being provided to ensure that someone was directed to that service. There is also information that could be available through the school, depending on the school that the person was attending. As I said, we have tried to ensure that a lot of information has been sent out to schools throughout the country. There is also the option of contacting police, as I said. Local police often play a very subtle role in these areas, trying to assist and support families. But the intervention coordinator is an alternative.

Senator PRATT: Yes. We are clearly dealing with people who might have extremist and violent ideas but have not yet committed any criminal offences, so you want to try to find a way of ensuring that such offences never occur.

Ms Jones : Yes.

Senator PRATT: How successful would you say these programs have been in achieving their objectives thus far?

Ms Jones : As I noted earlier on, we are in the process of developing a national framework for evaluating CVE programs. I think it would be fair to say that, at this point in time, most of our evidence is anecdotal, as opposed to having a really comprehensive evidence base that we can draw upon. I do not think that we would be able to say that there is a 100 per cent success rate in terms of people entering and staying in radicalisation programs, but increasingly—and we talk very regularly to a range of agencies about this—the feedback that we are getting is that people are successfully engaging with the programs. That is why it is important to have very holistic programs that perhaps look at issues of training, job opportunities or engagement in sporting activities and at getting people engaged in the community. That is having a very strong effect in terms of giving them an alternative pathway as opposed to being influenced either by other people in their community or by social media.

Senator PRATT: Thank you. I want to track through some of the funding issues in countering violent extremism. I note that in August 2014—I think it must have been Minister Brandis, or it could have been Minister Keenan—

CHAIR: Anyhow, perhaps it does not matter who it was.

Senator PRATT: Senator Brandis might have an interest if I am talking about him. I should get my facts right. There was a press release where Senator Brandis and the Prime Minister said they would invest more than $64 million in measures to counter violent extremism and radicalism. That, to my mind, indicated a fairly high level of priority. Is it fair to say that countering violent extremism continues to be a priority of the government?

Ms Jones : Certainly from the perspective of the responsibilities of the department it is. I would just note that, in recognition of that, we actually made some structural changes in our department and established a standalone CVE centre with an increased staffing footprint in the department to ensure that we were able to drive our effort in this regard. But, specifically, across the board in our counterterrorism effort—and that is a collaborative effort with the states and territories—CVE is accorded the highest priority, alongside operation response to counterterrorism.

Senator PRATT: I note that this year's budget commits only just over $9 million for CVE programs and that it drops to just over $6 million per year in the following three years. Does this indicate a downgrading of the commitment to countering violent extremism, compared with the announcement?

Ms Jones : No—there has been some phasing of the money that we received 2014 across the forward estimates. But we would be looking to maintain our level of activity and in fact increase it, particularly in developing materials around addressing the extremist narrative on social media.

Senator PRATT: Was the $64 million I mentioned over the forward estimates?

Ms Jones : That is correct.

Senator PRATT: So it includes the $9 million for this year, including the budget money previously, and $6 million in the following three years. Why is there a difference of $3 million a year between this year and the following three years?

Ms Jones : I would need to check the breakdown across the four years. I should note that $45 million of that $64 million was allocated to the Attorney-General's Department. The remainder was allocated, I believe, to the AFP. In regard to the phasing of the money, I would need to take that on notice—

Senator WATT: If you have the budget papers handy you might be able to have a look. It is program 1.7 in the portfolio budget statements—I do not have a page number but it is table 2.1. The measure—about half way down the page—'Countering violent extremism to prevent terrorism' for 2016-17, if you would like to look it up now.

Senator PRATT: There is a spike in funding this year compared with last year but I cannot see what the funding was in the 2014-15 year. In which year will that $64 million commitment be completed? Is that in 2020-21?

Ms Jones : Yes.

Senator PRATT: So the remainder of the $64 million was spent in the preceding 2014-15, 2015-16 years?

Ms Jones : I am sorry. In regard to the exact breakdown, we certainly put additional funding in the first years in order to be able to do the intervention program and build up—the sequencing of that funding across the forward estimates, obviously, the 2018-19, 2019-20, and 2020-21 was just a split across those programs. If I could take on notice to give you more detail about how we see that being allocated across the programs?

Senator PRATT: All right. If you have not quite an extra $2 million in the fund for next financial year, what are you expecting to achieve with that extra $2 million?

Ms Jones : The significant activities we will be undertaking next year are particularly focused on the counter-narrative social media work. In terms of the ongoing impact and influence of extremist narrative, we see that as a really significant and enduring issue. It is not strictly associated with ISIL. We see other groups such as al-Qaeda learning from ISIL in terms of much more sophisticated use of social media. Notwithstanding that ISIL itself may be experiencing some diminution in its territorial control in Iraq and Syria, we consider the ongoing risks associated with that extremist material to be quite significant.

Senator PRATT: What is the rough breakdown of how next financial year's $9 million will be spent?

Ms Jones : I do not have here with me tonight a table that sets that out. I can get it for you.

Senator PRATT: You do not have a rough idea? If you could also take on notice what elements of that program are likely to be dropped in the following three years because of the funding difference between '17 and '18 and the three forward years?

Ms Jones : I can do that.

Senator PRATT: I am certainly concerned that such a funding drop indicates a loss of priority to the area. You cannot advise us now what programs will have to be dropped over the forward estimates compared to next year?

Ms Jones : The thing I would note is we were able to secure some additional funding of $5 million that, I think, is built into that figure for 2016-17 and then across to 2017-18. That was additional funding that was allocated towards CVE, which we have put aside to assist supporting New South Wales in the development of its support line, which we think is a really important initiative in order to have an alternative mechanism for families or friends of people who are radicalising to have that alternative mechanism—addressing the issue that were you were referring to before so that people do not have to go to law enforcement. That was an additional injection of funding in order for us to be able to support the development of that advice line in New South Wales, which hopefully will be launched in the very near future.

Senator WATT: Senator Brandis, a question for you as a minister, how do you justify that reduction in funding for countering violent extremism?

Senator Brandis: There has been no overall reduction in funding. As the officer tried to point out to you, this is a phasing issue across the estimates and there have been other allocations made, including the $5 million. As well, do not forget, Senator, the CVE programs are delivered by the department but there are also agencies involved in the CVE like, importantly, the Australian Federal Police, whose funding is not accounted for in those figures, unless I am mistaken. The entire premise of Senator Pratt's question is wrong.

Senator PRATT: I am looking at the community initiatives here.

Senator Brandis: As Ms Jones has said, the priority of the government, as revealed in the counterterrorism strategy of 2015, is to prioritise CVE. This is a relatively new body of learning and technique, and the mode in which CVE programs are delivered has evolved across time and across agencies. I have been listening patiently to Senator Pratt misleading herself, no doubt through inability to follow the PBSs rather than deliberately. But the premise that there has been some—

Senator PRATT: Thank you for your patronising commentary, Senator Brandis!

Senator WATT: I do not think you need to patronise—

Senator Brandis: deprioritisation of the CVE programs is completely wrong.

Senator WATT: Is the night not complete without you patronising female senators? Is that what we have got to?

Senator PRATT: That is just disgusting. Don't be so rude to me.

Mr Moraitis : Senator, on the CVE effort, as Ms Jones said, there is a clear level of commitment. The CVE is a new area. We are working not only with agencies in Australia; we also deal very closely with our international partners. For example, on the CVE, the department has an officer in London working very closely with the Home Office on CVE matters, and we also have an officer in Washington talking to our counterparts in the US about what they do in CVE. This is not just because we like posting people; it is because we want to learn from people dealing with CVE, and whenever we meet with our contacts overseas we always engage on their experience with the CVE, whether it is in the UK or the US or with the French or the Danes. Everyone has different approaches, and it is one of those areas where we are learning from each other. So it is not just based on what we are doing in Australia.

Senator PRATT: No, I understand that.

Senator Brandis: To add to Mr Moraitis's remarks, we are also acknowledged as international leaders. It was at this government's initiative that we had the CVE regional summit in Sydney the year before last, and we have the networks that were established between officials and agencies at that summit, and the learnings from that summit have been built upon and exchanged. When I was speaking to the Deputy Prime Minister of Malaysia—who is also their Minister of Home Affairs—only two weeks ago, we spoke about the continuing benefits that have evolved from the Sydney summit of 2015. I am advised by those who advise me that our funding in this area has actually tripled in the last four years. Not all of that funding is described in that item in the PBS to which, Senator Pratt, you have referred, and it is entirely erroneous to suggest that that particular item in the PBS encompasses all of the CVE funding that the government is providing.

Senator PRATT: No, of course it does not. Countering violent extremism is a lot of policing and other surveillance funding et cetera. What I am trying to get here is an indication of the community interventions that families can turn to for help rather than the traditional policing. I want to see some of the relativities here, because $6 million does not seem to be a lot of money.

Mr Moraitis : As Ms Jones said, we have committed several million dollars to New South Wales to set up this special hotline which, if I recall correctly, came out of a COAG meeting or a senior meeting. It was part of that process. This was one of those areas where we thought we could make a big difference by just getting away from the classic law enforcement conduit, let us say. It was more about where families could feel much more comfortable engaging with somebody, at the other end of the phone, who was not a police officer or associated with a law enforcement body.

Senator PRATT: For the sake of brevity, could you take on notice what specific services or programs are funded within that budget line item—and we have had some discussion of these—including a view towards ongoing service delivery funding within countering violent extremism. You mentioned, Ms Jones, some of the work that is being undertaken to look at the effectiveness of the countering violent extremism approach and programs. Is there a framework around that? What is the methodology and approach being taken by government to do that?

Ms Jones : Through our colleagues under the Australia-New Zealand Counter-Terrorism Committee there is a subcommittee, the CVE subcommittee. I am the co-chair of that subcommittee. Through that subcommittee, with all states and territories, we have launched the development of an evaluation framework. I will ask Mr Carpay to give you a little bit more detail about that, but we certainly think this is one of the most important things for us to be doing. Right at the outset, when we are developing these programs and delivering them, we can have an evaluation framework around them.

As a general comment, before I hand over to Mr Carpay, I will just say that we recognise—and I discuss this with international counterparts when we are talking about CVE programs—that because it is greenfields, because it is a new area, whilst it is broadly a crime prevention approach in CVE we know that we have to keep trying different things. Some things will work in some communities; some things will not. As Mr Moraitis said, we look closely at programs around the world. It is an issue internationally that everyone is grappling with—how to effectively evaluate CVE programs—and it is challenging. We do recognise that with a lot of these programs we have to try new approaches, but up-front we do not necessarily have a guarantee that they are going to succeed.

Senator PRATT: But you did say before that there were certain—

Senator Brandis: Senator Pratt, I just want to add some things to what Ms Jones has had to say. Rather than talking in generalities, let me give you the actual numbers. In 2013-14, the aggregate expenditure of the Commonwealth on CVE programs, both through programs delivered by the department and programs delivered by the Australia-New Zealand Counter-Terrorism Committee, was $3,523,000. In 2014-15 that increased to $4,873,000. In 2015-16 it increased to $7,960,000.

Senator PRATT: They are the same budget line items I have, Senator Brandis.

Senator Brandis: Excuse me, Senator, I have not finished. In 2016-17 it increased to $11,901,000, and that included, by the way, the one-off funding injection which Ms Jones has referred to. In 2017-18 it will be $8,032,000. Obviously the one-off funding injection does not appear in that year, but it continues to be higher than all the previous years. In 2018-19 it will increase again to $8,086,000, and in 2019-20, in the out years of the forward estimates, it is estimated to be $8,086,000, a total of $62,333,000.

Senator PRATT: Can you refer me to the page in—

Senator Brandis: Far from decreasing, it has increased in every single year but for between 2016-17 and 2017-18, which, as Ms Jones explained, is explained by the one-off funding injection, and in each subsequent year across the forwards it continues to increase beyond the 2015-16 year.

Senator PRATT: Ms Jones, would you mind clarifying with Senator Brandis whether you are looking at the same table of information.

Senator Brandis: I am sorry; that is not a question. Can you go on to something else please, or ask your next question.

Senator PRATT: I am confused by your figures, Senator Brandis. Are they the same figures that we have been discussing, Mr Jones?

Senator Brandis: Well, I am not surprised you are confused. I have just given you the actual figures.

Ms Jones : The figures that I was looking at were from the budget, the 2017-18 accounts.

Senator PRATT: And where were the figures you were referring to from, Senator Brandis?

Senator Brandis: The figures that I was referring to are not the PBS figures, because, as I said to you, the PBS figures tell only part of the story, because there are a multiplicity of different programs and delivery vehicles and funding envelopes. The figures I was giving you were from a briefing note that was supplied to me that aggregates the figures.

Senator PRATT: It aggregates them? So it adds other programs in addition to—

Senator Brandis: No, no. It deals only with CVE programs.

Senator PRATT: Okay, but why don't they appear in the budget figures as described? You will have to give me a lesson in the budget papers, as you so expressed you may need, Senator Brandis.

Senator Brandis: I do not design the PBS. The PBS is designed by the Department of Finance. For certain reasons that have to do with accounting, about which I profess no expertise—

Senator PRATT: No, nor do I.

Senator Brandis: certain programs are treated in particular ways. What you are after and what I understood you to be commenting on was the total amount of the Commonwealth's commitment to CVE programs, and I have just given it to you.

Senator PRATT: I understand that with countering violent extremism there would be many millions of dollars spent in the AFP, border control and all of that, but I am looking at those community, social, early intervention type things. The figures that you have given me tonight, do they pertain to the same kinds of programs?

Senator Brandis: They certainly include the community intervention programs, yes.

Senator PRATT: Do they include other kinds of programs?

Senator Brandis: Let me take that on notice so the figures can be disaggregated further if they are able to be.

Senator PRATT: Ms Jones, Senator Brandis is referring to the same figures but with other information?

Ms Jones : In addition to the figures that I have quoted of funding that goes directly to the department, there is additional funding that is allocated to the Australia-New Zealand Counter-Terrorism Committee. There is a certain amount each year that is quarantined for CVE, and that is a recognition by the Australia-New Zealand Counter-Terrorism Committee that it has to be prioritised.

Senator PRATT: And that is a different line item within the budget?

Ms Jones : Yes.

Senator PRATT: And Senator Brandis has added those together. What funding was provided to the Australian Intervention Support Hub?

Mr Carpay : It was $700,000 from the Attorney-General's Department and $225,000 from the Australian Federal Police.

Senator PRATT: Is there a criteria for funding the hub, and defining what the objectives and performance indicators for it would be?

Mr Carpay : The hub was essentially a one-off project, so it is not something that is an ongoing process for us. It was a process whereby we sought to create some better capability and capacity in relating to dealing with CVE, and that process is now completed.

Senator PRATT: Could you give an outline of what the outcomes and outputs have been from the support hub?

Mr Carpay : It did a range of things, one of which was to enhance the linkages between academia, government agencies and, particularly, community groups—so assisting them to develop and implement nationally consistent but locally delivered programs and processes to support people. There was also community research done. There was also a publication that was a compendium of counter-narratives developed on a regional basis that has since been published as well—so the ability for people within the region, not just within Australia, to have advice on how to actually counter ISIS and other ideologies.

Senator PRATT: When Ms Jones was talking about that general framework of support being dispersed out, is that what the hub is?

Mr Carpay : The hub has partially completed a process whereby we want to have a list of services that can be accessed. That list is then available to the intervention coordinators and others in the field, so it is a mechanism by which we are growing a capacity and capability in each jurisdiction.

Senator PRATT: I guess that goes some way to answering my next question which is: has the government set up a support program for CVE providers generally?

Mr Carpay : We have commenced that. For example, there is an intervention coordinators workshop coming up in June, so we are actively engaging with that community and working with them to understand their needs and support them in that. Part of that then is the access to the services that they need—counselling and employment et cetera. Those processes are ongoing because the field is evolving and new providers become available who can support services.

Senator PRATT: And the intervention support hub remains the hub for that support?

Mr Carpay : We are moving to a slightly different platform but, conceptually, yes. There will be a hub for people within the field to be able to access and get support materials.

Senator PRATT: What are the differences between the new direction and the Australian Intervention Support Hub?

Mr Carpay : Essentially, the Intervention Support Hub was an outsourced model—for want of a better descriptor. We are actually now going to build the hub ourselves so that we can house and contain it, and then use other sources of information to add to that ourselves.

Senator PRATT: Is that because the Australian Intervention Support Hub, as initially envisaged, did not meet its performance indicators as originally set out?

Mr Carpay : That is not how I would characterise what we are doing now, no.

Senator PRATT: How would you characterise it?

Mr Carpay : I think it has served its purpose, which was to do some initial work and engender some community understanding of issues. It now seems sensible for us to proceed based on that and build it for a longer term and sustainably. If we own it ourselves it is easier to operate and manage control, put it on a stable IT platform, control access and ownership et cetera.

Senator PRATT: Thank you. You might need to take this on notice. I am assuming that the directory of CVE services is public; is that right?

Mr Carpay : No, it is not. The reason for that is that many of the service providers have concerns about being known to be working in this field. It can impact on them in a number of ways, including a loss of contact within communities within which they are working, so it is not a public document or list.

Senator PRATT: So how do I ask you appropriately what services are in that list of services?

Mr Carpay : Can I take that on notice and come back to you with advice? I can tell you roughly the sorts of things that are there. It does involve a range of support, counselling, employment et cetera. There are a range of things there, but we can take on notice to give you an outline of the sorts of services that are available through that.

Senator PRATT: Yes, that would be fine. I understand the reasons why the specifics cannot be given. How many of the organisations funded under the Living Safe Together program are currently delivering CVE services and how many are listed in that directory?

Mr Carpay : There are a total of 48 organisations currently on the directory. Whether they are actually providing services or not depends on the need, so they may be there but the service may not have been required yet.

Senator PRATT: So they might be a contact point, a safe place to be a contact conduit?

Mr Carpay : Indeed, so they are available, but whether they have been utilised is more detailed information.

Senator PRATT: What was the total level of funding for the Living Safe Together program?

Mr Carpay : It was a total of $1.9 million.

Senator PRATT: What are the future budget projections for that grants program?

Mr Carpay : It was a one-off grants program. It is no longer a grants program, so there are no future funds.

Senator PRATT: In that sense, will that affect the longevity of the Living Safe Together program?

Mr Carpay : It is a component of the overall program, which covers a whole range of activities we are doing, so I do not believe it will.

Senator PRATT: So you are arguing that the Living Safe Together program will continue even though it does not have any further funding?

Mr Carpay : It is kind of a banner program for trying to address a whole range of issues. This happened to be a grants program operating within it.

Senator PRATT: Do you have any concerns that it will affect the viability of the Living Safe Together program?

Ms Jones : I would not say that we have concerns. In terms of a program like this, a grants program is one vehicle to work with community organisations but there are a range of other ways through the program that we can work and support with community organisations. I think it is fair to say in this area that there is a lot of administration associated with a grants program and there are challenges for organisations. There are much more direct ways that you can support those organisations.

Senator PRATT: In other words, you are saying that the government is going to take responsibility for staying in touch with those 48 organisations that are currently, for example, listed on the CVE directory? That is the kind of thing your future hub will be doing?

Ms Jones : We would certainly want to continue working with supporting those organisations. Community organisations are really important, but we are also increasingly engaging with the private sector, with other organisations that can bring something to assisting in addressing radicalisation in communities. They obviously have a very keen interest themselves in ensuring safe communities and can make a great contribution themselves to this work.

Senator PRATT: You did say that there is I think $1.9 million for that program. Is that representative of the peak in the CVE funding in 2017-18 or part of the drop in funding?

How do you account now for the $1.9 million no longer being in that particular line item?

Ms Jones : We brought forward the funding allocated for the program early over the cycle of the four-year funding amount, because we recognised that, very early on, an absolute priority for us had to be about building capability in community organisations. I think it is probably something you are quite familiar with that, quite often, we place a very high expectation on these very small community organisations in terms of what they can do to assist with social programs whether it is Indigenous or other types of programs. We prioritised early on—

Senator PRATT: So which years was that $1.9 million spent in the budget papers.

Ms Jones : In 2015-16.

Senator PRATT: My last question is to Senator Brandis: your very helpful briefing note that you provided that is your own notes—is that information you can provide in a written form to the committee.

Senator Brandis: Yes.

Senator PRATT: Thank you; no further questions.

CHAIR: Thank you very much, Senator Pratt. I thank the minister; the secretary and your team, Secretary; Hansard; and my colleagues.

Senator PRATT: Is that something I can have now or for later?

Senator Brandis: Can we give it to you tomorrow, Senator.

Senator PRATT: Yes; thank you.

CHAIR: Tomorrow the committee deals with all the agencies in the Attorney-General's Department so, until we meet at nine o'clock for the Australian Federal Police, farewell and have a nice night.

Committee adjourned at 21:41