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Environment and Communications Legislation Committee


In Attendance

Senator Farrell, Minister for Science and Research, Minister Assisting for Tourism

Department Executive

Dr Paul Grimes, Secretary

Mr Malcolm Thompson, Deputy Secretary

Dr Kimberley Dripps, Deputy Secretary

Mr David Parker AM, Deputy Secretary

Ms Donna Petrachenko, Chief Adviser International Biodiversity and Sustainability

Australian Antarctic Division

Dr Tony Fleming, Director

Dr Rob Wooding, General Manager, Support Centre

Dr Nick Gales, Chief Scientist

Mr Matthew Sutton, Finance Manager

Biodiversity and Conservation Division

Mr Sean Sullivan, First Assistant Secretary

Ms Claire Howlett, Assistant Secretary, Biodiversity Policy Branch

Ms Charmayne Murray, Acting Assistant Secretary, Program Delivery South Branch

Ms Peta Lane, Acting Assistant Secretary, Program Delivery North Branch

Ms Lisa Nitschke, Acting Assistant Secretary, Indigenous Policy Branch

Mr Nathan Sibley, Director, Program Support Branch

Dr Julie Anorov, Director, Program Support Branch

Mr Joshua Thomas, Director, Biodiversity Policy Branch

Environment Assessment and Compliance Division

Mr Dean Knudson, First Assistant Secretary

Ms Barbara Jones, Assistant Secretary, North, West and Offshore Assessment Branch

Ms Deb Callister, Assistant Secretary, Queensland and South Australia Assessment Branch

Mr James Tregurtha, Assistant Secretary, South-Eastern Australia Assessment Branch

Mr Shane Gaddes, Acting Assistant Secretary, Compliance and Enforcement Branch

Ms Carolyn Cameron, Assistant Secretary, Strategic Approaches Branch

Ms Mary Colreavy, Assistant Secretary, Great Barrier Reef Taskforce

Mr James Barker, Assistant Secretary, Regulatory Reform Branch

Supervising Scientist Division

Mr Richard McAllister, Acting Supervising Scientist

Mr Keith Tayler, Director, Supervision and Assessment

Wildlife, Heritage and Marine Division

Ms Alex Rankin, First Assistant Secretary

Mr Paul Murphy, Assistant Secretary, Heritage North Branch

Mr Matthew White, Acting Assistant Secretary, Wildlife Branch

Ms Lara Musgrave, Assistant Secretary, Marine Environment Policy and Programs Branch

Mr Geoff Richardson, Assistant Secretary, Marine Biodiversity and Biosecurity Branch

Ms Jennifer Carter, Acting Assistant Secretary, Heritage South Branch

Environment Quality Division

Dr Diana Wright, First Assistant Secretary

Mr Andrew McNee, Assistant Secretary, Environment Protection Branch

Mr Matthew Dadswell, Assistant Secretary, Environment Standards Branch

Mr Bruce Edwards, Assistant Secretary, Waste Policy Branch

Sustainability, Policy and Analysis Division

Mr Mark Flanigan, First Assistant Secretary

Mrs Mary Wiley-Smith, Assistant Secretary, Sustainability and Communities Branch

Dr Kathryn Collins, Assistant Secretary, Environment Research and Information Branch

Parks Australia Division

Mr Peter Cochrane, Director of National Parks

Mr Charlton Clark, Assistant Secretary, Commonwealth Marine Reserves Branch

Mr Mark Taylor, Assistant Secretary, Parks and Protected Areas Programs Branch

Policy and Communications Division

Mr Stephen Oxley, First Assistant Secretary

Mr Howard Conkey, Acting Assistant Secretary, Communications and Ministerial Services Branch

Corporate Strategies Division

Ms Dianne Carlos, Chief Operating Officer

Ms Lily Viertmann, Chief Financial Officer, Financial Services Branch

Water Efficiency Division

Ms Mary Harwood, First Assistant Secretary

Mr Colin Mues, Assistant Secretary, Water Recovery Branch

Mr Richard McLoughlin, Assistant Secretary, Irrigation Efficiency Northern Branch

Mr John Robertson, Assistant Secretary, Basin Communities and On Farm Branch

Ms Lucy Vincent, Assistant Secretary, On Farm and Urban Water Programs Branch

Water Reform Division

Mr Tony Slatyer, First Assistant Secretary

Mr Greg Manning, Assistant Secretary, Aquatic Systems Policy Branch

Commonwealth Environmental Water Office

Mr David Papps, Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder

Mr Steve Costello, Assistant Secretary, Policy and Portfolio Management Branch

Dr Simon Banks, Assistant Secretary, Environmental Water Delivery Branch

Office of Water Science

Ms Suzy Nethercott-Watson, Acting First Assistant Secretary


Bureau of Meteorology

Dr Rob Vertessy, Director of Meteorology

Dr Ray Canterford, Deputy Director, Services

Ms Vicki Middleton, Deputy Director, Corporate

Mr Graham Hawke, Deputy Director, Climate and Water

Dr Neville Smith, Deputy Director, Research and Systems

Mr Barry Hanstrum, Acting Deputy Director, Research and System

Mr Trevor Plowman, Assistant Director, Finance

Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority

Dr Russell Reichelt, Chairman

Mr Bruce Elliot, General Manager, Environment and Sustainability

Ms Margaret Johnson, General Manager, Communication and Policy Coordination

Mr John Barrett, Director, Corporate Services

Dr Adam Smith, Director, Environmental Assessment and Management

Murray-Darling Basin Authority

Dr Rhondda Dickson, Chief Executive

Dr Fraser MacLeod, Executive Director, Joint Programs Internal Review Taskforce

Mr Russell James, Executive Director, Policy and Planning Division

Mr Frank Nicholas, Executive Director, Corporate Services Division

Ms Jody Swirepik, Executive Director, Environmental Management Division

Mr David Dreverman, Executive Director, River Management Division

National Water Commission

Mr James Cameron, Chief Executive Officer

Ms Kerry Olsson, General Manager Industry and Sustainability

Mr Matt Kendall, General Manager Planning and Evaluation

Committee met at [09:00]

CHAIR ( Senator Cameron ): I declare open this public hearing of the Senate Environment and Communications Legislation Committee. The Senate has referred to the committee the particulars of proposed expenditure for 2013-14 for the Climate Change, Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy portfolio; and the Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities portfolio; and other related documents. The committee must report to the Senate 25 June 2013. The committee has set Friday, 26 July 2013 as the date by which answers to questions on notice are to be returned. The committee will now begin its examination of the Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities portfolio. Under standing order 26, the committee must take all evidence in public session. This includes answers to questions on notice. Officers and senators are familiar with the rules of the Senate governing estimates hearings. If you need assistance, the secretariat has copies of the rules. 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, which I now incorporate in Hansard.

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 (I) 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)