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Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Legislation Committee
20/10/2016
Estimates
FOREIGN AFFAIRS AND TRADE PORTFOLIO
Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade

Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade

[09:03]

I welcome Senator the Hon. George Brandis QC representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs; Ms Frances Adamson, secretary; and officers of the department. Particularly, Ms Adamson, could I congratulate you on behalf of the committee for your accession to the role of secretary, following the wonderful footsteps of Mr Peter Varghese, and can I welcome you particularly to your first Senate estimates representing the department. Minister, good morning.

Senator Brandis: Good morning, Mr Chairman. Could I join you in those remarks. This is Ms Adamson's first appearance before estimates as the secretary of DFAT. She is well known, I think, to people in this building. She has had an immensely distinguished career in the department of foreign affairs and it is appropriate that it has now culminated in her appointment by the Turnbull government as the secretary of the department. It is not her first appearance before estimates, but it is her first appearance in this capacity.

CHAIR: Thank you. Minister, do you wish to make an opening statement?

Senator Brandis: No.

CHAIR: Secretary, do you wish to make an opening statement?

Ms Adamson : No.

CHAIR: Wonderful. In that case we will go to you, Senator Wong.

Senator WONG: Ms Adamson, I would first join with the chair and Senator Brandis in congratulating you publicly on your appointment. I think we put out a public statement where we set out our views, but it is very good to see you in this role. Can I ask first about the foreign affairs white paper? I just want to get some sense of the process of the timing. I assume that there is no green paper process. So what is the consultation process with discussion paper releases? Could someone take me through that, please?

Ms Adamson : Senator, as you are aware, the government announced that there would be a foreign policy strategy produced by the middle of next year and work has commenced recently in the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade with a small team. That team will grow over time because it is important that the work be conducted on a whole-of-government basis. We have started to plan for a public consultation program. Obviously there will need to be discussions amongst ministers early on to set the precise terms of reference, and that process lies ahead of it. But we are very clear about the fact that this will be done on an open consultation basis, likely inviting members of the public to make submissions. It is also envisaged that there will be a series of roundtables and public events, including involving think-tanks, many of whom have already started to publish their views and ideas and submit ideas on the sorts of elements that the document should contain.

Senator WONG: There are a few questions about that. I want to get the timing. First, I think you said that ministers will consider terms of reference.

Ms Adamson : Yes.

Senator WONG: As yet, that has not occurred?

Ms Adamson : No, that has not occurred. It will occur towards the end of this year.

Senator WONG: That seems unusual, given that the announcement was made, I think, shortly after the election.

Ms Adamson : The announcement was made shortly after the election. It has taken a little while to get a team together, including having the senior DFAT member back from overseas. But under Ms Logan's leadership in the executive planning and evaluation branch, a range of preliminary work has been done, including examining previous white papers and examining the experience of other governments around the world in producing white papers—what best practice might look like in these areas of consultation—and consultation with other departments on terms of reference. So I feel that we are making good progress, but the consultation period is likely to be from towards the end of this year through until late February probably. We want to make sure that we can fully canvass views and meet the government's deadline of the middle of next year for publication.

Senator WONG: So the time frames are that terms of reference to be finalised later this year?

Ms Adamson : Yes.

Senator WONG: You cannot give me any more specificity than that?

Ms Adamson : No.

Senator WONG: Consultation period between then and February?

Ms Adamson : Probably late February, I think. We want to make sure that—

Senator WONG: If you are releasing it just before Christmas and then February, it is not an optimal time. Then the government will publish around the middle of 2017?

Ms Adamson : That is the commitment that the government has made, yes.

Senator WONG: Is it usual that you would announce a white paper that far ahead of settling the terms of reference?

Ms Adamson : I think it was an election commitment of the government to produce a foreign policy strategy and there was obviously a process, after the government returned, to work through what this might look like in an incoming government brief. I started formally as secretary on 25 August and it has been a priority for me from day one.

Senator WONG: When did DFAT become aware of the government's intention that there be a white paper—and I am using that phrase specifically? I know that you referenced a strategy, but when was DFAT first aware that it was the government's intention to produce a white paper?

Ms Adamson : We are working on the basis that we are producing a foreign policy strategy.

Senator WONG: No. When was DFAT first aware that the government would be producing a white paper?

Ms Adamson : The government announced, during the election campaign, that it would produce a foreign policy strategy and that is what we are producing.

Senator WONG: Let us not dodge around 'strategy' and 'white paper'. I understand that. That is your answer on the strategy. Was DFAT aware, before the minister made the announcement, that a white paper would be produced; that that would be the nature of the strategy; that it would be in the form of a white paper, which, as you know, and you have been around for a long time, has a particular—I do not want to use too pejorative a term, too strong a term—status, a white paper?

Ms Adamson : It does have a particular status, a white paper, and I think the terms are being used interchangeably. They have been used publicly on a number of occasions interchangeably as white paper/foreign policy strategy. Ultimately it will be a matter for the government to decide in what form it wishes to publish a public-facing document.

Senator WONG: Now I understand why you kept referencing 'strategy'. Has there been a decision that there actually is a white paper, or is the decision that there will be a foreign policy strategy, which could be a white paper or could be another—to use your phrase—public-facing document?

Ms Adamson : We have been asked to produce a foreign policy strategy and the precise form in which that is published will be a matter for the government, the ministers.

Senator WONG: I thought Minister Bishop used the phrase 'white paper' in the announcement.

Ms Adamson : She has—

Senator Brandis: Can you refer us to the—

Senator WONG: I do not have that in front of me, but I think the secretary has just confirmed that. Is that right, Secretary?

Ms Adamson : I am aware that the minister has used the term 'white paper' and we are positioned to produce a white paper if necessary. Internally, we are referring to it as a foreign policy strategy.

Senator WONG: Has the government made a decision to produce a white paper or not?

Ms Adamson : The matter is expected to be considered by ministers later in the year and I would expect a final determination on that would be made at that stage.

Senator WONG: Perhaps someone can remind me: was DFAT aware that the minister was going to use the phrase 'white paper' before the public comments were made?

Ms Adamson : I cannot be absolutely certain about that, but we are very comfortable with producing a foreign policy statement—

Senator WONG: I am sure that you are, but I am just trying to get a sense of, when she announced it, whether the department was aware of that or whether you only became aware via the announcement.

Ms Adamson : The foreign minister and I had certainly had discussions, as I was about to formally start in Canberra, around a white paper/foreign policy strategy and I am aware that she has used that term publicly. I have used the terms interchangeably in the department.

Senator WONG: I think your evidence is that the government has not decided whether it will be a white paper or something else.

Ms Adamson : I think that is still an open question, yes.

Senator WONG: Can I go to the small team? Ms Logan, are you the leader of this small team?

Ms Logan : I am not, but I was involved in the initial setting up of the team.

Senator WONG: Who is the leader? You referenced a leader.

Ms Adamson : Yes, I did, and the leader is Justin Hayhurst—

Senator WONG: Is he here?

Ms Adamson : an SES band 2 officer who commences in the role today, but I am happy to take any questions—

Senator WONG: Right; you figure asking him to come and answer questions on his first day might be a bit hard.

Ms Adamson : No. I am happy to answer any questions on this subject because, as the foreign minister has said, she expects me to lead the process, and I do.

Senator WONG: Sure. I just wanted to get some sense of time. What are you calling them? They are not the white paper task force, but if you do not know—

Ms Adamson : No; he is the task force leader.

Senator WONG: What is the name of the task force?

Ms Adamson : The foreign policy strategy task force leader for the moment, but he has not had names and cards printed. It may well be—

Senator WONG: I am trying to understand what the task force—

Ms Adamson : They are printed with white paper; leader.

Senator WONG: Let us not have the same discussion that I had with Senator Cormann, when he was trying to tell me that there was a tax white paper because the budget was printed on white paper. Foreign policy strategy task force, can I call it that?

Ms Adamson : Yes, you can call it that.

Senator WONG: How many people are currently employed in or allocated to that task force?

Ms Logan : At the moment there are around seven.

Senator WONG: All from DFAT? There is no interagency at the moment?

Ms Logan : Not yet.

Ms Adamson : There will be, if I can just add, because it is important that it be done on a whole-of-government basis. So I have had discussions with other secretaries about seconding people to join the task force and they are very willing to do it.

Senator WONG: Can you tell me when the various seven were allocated to the task force?

Ms Logan : I do not have the precise date, but it would have been over the last four weeks.

Senator WONG: Four weeks.

Ms Adamson : Perhaps I could add that, when I became secretary on 25 August, as a matter of priority, I think within the first day or two, I spoke to Ms Logan as assistant secretary, executive branch, and work commenced from that moment, essentially with Ms Logan and members of her branch, whose role typically is to start these processes, then stand up a team and work on it. So we have been working on it consistently since late August.

Senator WONG: I have been provided with a copy of the quote from the Fairfax Sydney Morning Herald interview of 19 August. I will read the quote:

Ms Bishop told Fairfax Media that, in fact, a formal white paper would be produced

At the time she said that, was that correct or not correct?

Ms Adamson : I am sure that the minister was correct in what she said on that date.

Senator WONG: How does that reconcile—to use, Senator Brandis's word—with the evidence that you gave earlier that the government has not actually made a decision as to whether it will be a white paper?

Ms Adamson : I think the foreign minister uses the terms interchangeably—foreign policy strategies and white paper.

Senator WONG: What do you understand—

Senator Brandis: As does the department, as we have heard from Ms Adamson in answer to an earlier question. There is no difference here, Senator.

Senator WONG: Secretary, earlier I think you agreed with me that a white paper had a certain status.

Ms Adamson : It does.

Senator WONG: What do you understand that status to be?

Ms Adamson : I understand it to be formal articulation of government policy, often setting a direction in a policy area, usually as a result of consultation, sometimes but not always involving the publication of a green paper before a white paper.

Senator WONG: Correct. Can you tell me what you understand a strategy to be and how that differs from a white paper, in terms of—

Ms Adamson : I think a white paper would be expected to include a strategy, clearly.

Senator WONG: Correct.

Ms Adamson : That is why I regard the two as interchangeable and the department might use both terms interchangeably.

Senator WONG: Would you agree that, in terms of status, weight and the extent to which there is a formal articulation of government policy and the rigour of the process, generally white papers are seen as certainly a very weighty, serious and binding articulation of government policy?

Ms Adamson : In the area of foreign policy, if we look back at past white papers, they are necessarily articulations of the way that former governments have seen Australia's role in the world, the way that they have indeed seen the world and the way that our interests can be pursued in the years ahead. Naturally enough, elements of the foreign and strategic policy domain are uncertain. They have attempted to plot a course for the Australian government, and that is something that I know the minister and, indeed, ministers across the government are very keen to do.

Senator WONG: I might come back to this. I want to have a look at a couple of things. I go to a story which appeared today on the front page of the Fairfax press about a meeting of executives in Paris. I assume that you have seen that, Secretary.

Ms Adamson : I have.

Senator WONG: I have some questions about that, so who would you like me to address those to?

Ms Adamson : Please address them to me in the first instance.

Senator WONG: Sure.

Ms Adamson : I have Mr Fisher next to me.

Senator WONG: Ms Adamson, can you confirm, as reported in the Sydney Morning Herald and the Age today, that the department sent nearly two dozen senior bureaucrats from Canberra to Paris to attend an in-house conference?

Ms Adamson : I can confirm that the department sent 22 staff, then Australia based. One staff member was on his way to an overseas posting and was not technically Australia based but attended and presented at the regional management conference.

Senator WONG: But was coming from Canberra?

Ms Adamson : On his way to take up a long-term posting.

Senator WONG: Was the conference in house?

Ms Adamson : The conference was a regional management conference; in house, indeed.

Senator WONG: How much did the conference cost?

Ms Adamson : I will ask Mr Fisher to take that question.

Mr Fisher : We do not have total costs on that. The costs are decentralised. Each area that sends a presenter will allot costs to that activity.

Senator WONG: The papers say $215,000, so I am giving you the opportunity to respond to that figure.

Mr Fisher : We do not have the total costs. We are seeking to do the Canberra-based costs, so we will endeavour to get those costs; whether we need to give those to you on notice or whether we can do that through the day, I am not quite sure.

Senator WONG: Let us break this up, shall we? Are you talking about costs for travel?

Mr Fisher : I am talking about costs for travel, there will be allowances involved and accommodation, essentially.

Senator WONG: So you do not know how much, for example, the accommodation cost?

Mr Fisher : I do not know. We will be seeking to get that information.

Senator WONG: There is a response from DFAT in the article, so presumably you were advised of this yesterday?

Mr Fisher : That is correct.

Senator WONG: Were you handling that, Mr Fisher?

Mr Fisher : Yes, I was.

Senator WONG: Did you at that point seek to obtain information about the costs?

Mr Fisher : We have sought to obtain information, yes.

Senator WONG: You do not have anything for me?

Mr Fisher : Not yet.

Senator WONG: You cannot tell me whether $215,000 was on the low side or the high side?

Mr Fisher : No, I cannot.

Senator GALLACHER: Does the conference go ahead without a budget to start with? You do the conference and collect the figures afterwards; you do not have a budget and send people to it?

Mr Fisher : Essentially, it is a whole-of-corporate conference, so each area is funding its particular—

Senator GALLACHER: I understand that. My simple question is: you do not have a budget for a conference; you just incur the costs and then count the expense later?

Mr Fisher : We will have some central budget for it with things like a venue cost. In this case the venue cost nothing because it was held within the premises of the Paris embassy. Apart from that, individual areas will take on their own costs—that is right—because they provide the presenters.

Ms Adamson : Most work units, whether they are overseas posts, sections, branches or divisions in Canberra, have training budgets which are used for this purpose and, indeed, others. DFAT has a very strong commitment to the training of our staff, whether they are staff in Canberra or staff overseas. I know that you know there are many complexities about the overseas environment; it is incumbent upon us to ensure that our staff are well trained to be able to deal with those.

Senator WONG: But on what basis is it asserted that that commitment to training requires 22—using, to be fair, your figure—to fly to Paris?

Ms Adamson : DFAT, for the last 30 years or so, has conducted regional management meetings; I think 'conferences' has been the term used more recently. They are essentially meetings that bring together staff in six regions of the world. They come together on average within that region about every 18 months. They come together for training and also to work through whatever corporate issues may be current at that time. The location for each of those training courses is chosen carefully on the basis of cost considerations. The choice of Paris on this occasion was determined, because it is a regional hub, as offering the cheapest option for this training and management meeting.

Senator WONG: There are a few things I would like to ask questions about in that regard.

Ms Adamson : Certainly.

Senator WONG: First, where was the conference held, Mr Fisher?

Mr Fisher : The embassy is currently undergoing a refurbishment in one of the floors. That area is to be gutted shortly, so we used that area as a conference venue before it has been refurbished.

Senator WONG: Where did people stay?

Mr Fisher : There is a hotel next to where the conference was—a couple of hotels—and most people would have stayed at a hotel near the mission. There is one right next door, the Mercure.

Senator WONG: What is the name of the hotel?

Mr Fisher : The Mercure—it was in the article—and there is at least one other hotel in the vicinity that provided good value for money, we thought. For some staff, for instance, I stayed in a transit apartment within the Paris embassy itself.

Senator WONG: What is the standard room rate at the Mercure Eiffel Tower? Is that the name?

Mr Fisher : That is right.

Senator WONG: Or the Mercure Tour Eiffel.

Mr Fisher : I do not have that but I will get it for you.

Senator WONG: You do not know what the standard room rate is?

Mr Fisher : I do not know what the standard room rate is.

Senator GALLACHER: But you do this every 18 months. Don't you have a ballpark figure for this? Don't you budget for it? If you do it every 18 months, one would imagine that you would have a line item in your budget and you would know how much that would cost.

Mr Fisher : For overseas travel, there is a guideline for the cost of a hotel—a reasonable cost for a hotel—so we are looking—

Senator GALLACHER: You are avoiding the question that I am directly asking you. The department must budget for its regular 18-month gathering of these officials and you must report that somewhere in total, not disaggregated or as hotel costs and airfares. How much does this event cost you every 18 months?

Mr Fisher : We do not report it in total because the costs are disaggregated. Each area uses its own training money to send officials to present.

Senator WONG: Training money?

Mr Fisher : That is right.

Senator WONG: Okay. Let us go—

Senator GALLACHER: A hollow log. That is what we used to call it—a hollow log.

Senator WONG: The standard room rate: you are going to try to come back to me on that, and the cost, if possible?

Mr Fisher : Yes.

Senator WONG: Do you know for how many nights people stayed?

Mr Fisher : It would have varied. Some were there for shorter periods and some were there for longer periods.

Senator WONG: That is not hugely helpful.

Mr Fisher : Let me go further.

Senator WONG: How long was the conference?

Mr Fisher : The conference was held for three days, so typically people would stay for three nights; but some may have stayed for a bit longer than that and some may have stayed for a shorter period.

Senator WONG: Can you provide that as well?

Mr Fisher : Sure.

Senator WONG: It would be useful if you could come back later in the day on this. I assume that all Canberra-based staff flew business class?

Mr Fisher : Given the distances involved, yes.

Senator WONG: I think the secretary said, in answer to my colleague's question, that this is something you do every 18 months et cetera. Can you tell me who made the decision that it was Paris?

Mr Fisher : I made that decision.

Senator WONG: You made that decision?

Mr Fisher : I did.

Senator WONG: Why did you make that decision?

Mr Fisher : Typically, we look in these circumstances at which mission may be able to host such a conference. We ask them, 'Are you able to offer us facilities and on what terms would you do so?' or, 'How would you help us organise the conference?' In this case a number of missions came back and offered their missions to help us to host the conference. Paris was chosen for two reasons. One in particular was that it is a transport hub. If you are bringing people from the Europe region, rather than going to somewhere that might be on the edge of Europe, it makes sense to go somewhere in the centre of Europe.

Senator WONG: It is not known as a cheap city.

Mr Fisher : No; but if you are factoring in transport costs, that counts.

Senator WONG: But you cannot tell me about the transport costs?

Mr Fisher : Not yet, I cannot. Secondly, we had a free venue; the venue cost us nothing.

Senator WONG: Tell me about the number of people at the conference. We know that 23 Australian-based staff attended. I note, for fairness, the secretary's indication that there was one Australian based who was going to an overseas posting, but 23 people flew business class from Canberra to Paris for this. How many non-Australia-based people attended the conference?

Mr Fisher : Forty-six.

Senator WONG: Forty-six in total attended the conference?

Mr Fisher : Correct.

Senator WONG: Were they from around—

Mr Fisher : Of that 46, 40 were from the European region, from our posts in Europe.

Senator WONG: How many?

Mr Fisher : Forty. There were six from other contiguous regions who had not been able to get to an earlier regional management conference.

Senator WONG: What does 'contingent regions' mean?

Mr Fisher : In this case it means from the Middle East and South Asia.

Senator WONG: We flew people from South Asia to Paris for a conference?

Mr Fisher : That is correct.

Senator WONG: Because that was better than coming to Canberra?

Mr Fisher : The conference was not on in Canberra.

Senator WONG: I think that is pretty clear.

Mr Fisher : So there would be no point in flying those people to Canberra.

Senator WONG: Was there any ministerial involvement in this decision?

Mr Fisher : No.

Senator WONG: Is this conference part of the Ideas Challenge?

Mr Fisher : No, although we will discuss innovation and a range of other initiatives within the department at the conference.

Senator WONG: And there was no public-facing aspect of this conference; it was entirely internal? You did not invite others? There was no engagement in the formal conference proceedings with representatives of other governments, no public policy—

Mr Fisher : Not in the formal. Often, on the side of such conferences, we will have consultations with other foreign governments and I know that in this case we did.

Senator WONG: Did the purpose of the conference include talking about ways to save money?

Mr Fisher : Yes.

Senator WONG: So you flew people to Paris to discuss saving money?

Mr Fisher : We flew people to Paris to talk about how we might do things in a more effective way. We are undergoing a major reform process within the organisation, including how we design the corporate services we deliver at post. We talked about those issues absolutely. They were a focus of the conference.

Senator WONG: In the PBS that is before us, I think there is just over $50 million in efficiencies for the department. Is that right, Mr Wood? Have I got that number right?

Mr Wood : You are correct. The save that was announced in the 2016-17 budget called for Foreign Affairs and Trade portfolio efficiencies to include a save of $50.5 million over four years.

Senator WONG: Four or five?

Mr Wood : The save is over four years.

Senator WONG: Mr Fisher, it just seems a little odd that you have a requirement to take just over $50 million out in efficiencies but a decision is made to hold a conference in Paris about saving money.

Mr Fisher : I would not connect the two; I really would not.

Senator WONG: What do you mean? They are all about departmental expenditure.

Mr Fisher : They are, indeed, absolutely. I would not connect the two.

Senator WONG: Did people fly direct to Paris?

Mr Fisher : Most of the people who attended would have flown direct to Paris. Some of them would have been doing other business and come to Paris as part of a broader trip.

Senator WONG: That is another question for you to try to come back to me on.

Mr Fisher : Sure.

Senator WONG: Also—and I am sure that you are doing this—we are trying to get a sense of the total cost. So there would be not just travel costs but travel allowances, other allowances and expenses. I think Senator Gallacher might have a question, Chair.

Senator GALLACHER: Basically, the media is reporting—and you are unable to rebut—that the hotel is $530-odd a day.

Mr Fisher : I do not have that—

Senator GALLACHER: Add $150 for an incidental allowance and it is $680 a day, and they have used the cheapest-possible business class saver fare. You are here at estimates and we are reviewing taxpayer expenditure and you cannot even tell us whether any of those figures are right or plus or minus.

Mr Fisher : Surely—

Senator GALLACHER: The hotel rate would be a Wotif, wouldn't it?

Mr Fisher : The journalists made an assumption. In this case, it may be that we did not get the rack rate for the hotel; I am not sure. I will have to check what the arrangements were for the hotel.

Senator GALLACHER: So you have seen this article and you are not prepared to accept the basis of it? Are they underquoting?

Mr Fisher : We are happy to take that on notice.

Senator GALLACHER: Today?

Mr Fisher : We will get to you as much information on costs as we can today.

Senator GALLACHER: I really was enthusiastic when I learned that an economist was going to be in charge of this department and hopeful that some rigour might have come into economies of scale. But here we are with a regular 18-month meeting, which is not budgeted for in the normal sense that an organisation would, the costs are disaggregated through various training buckets, if you like, in various places, and the senior-most person in charge of people does not know how much it costs. He does not even know how much the hotel is. Do you know what the incidental allowance is?

Mr Fisher : I will get you that information.

Senator GALLACHER: Today; thank you.

Senator WONG: I have just a couple more, Chair, if that is okay.

CHAIR: Yes, of course.

Senator WONG: Mr Fisher, I want to go to the six who came from—I am sorry; did you use the phrase 'contingent locations'?

Mr Fisher : 'Contiguous' I may have used.

Senator WONG: Contiguous. I thought it was a little odd. I misheard you. I thought, 'This is a new foreign policy term.' Can you tell me where the six came from? Are you able to give us that information?

Mr Fisher : I can. They came from Beirut, Cairo and Doha, two came from Islamabad and the last from Kathmandu.

Senator WONG: Did you consider, for a number of these, given the in-house nature of it and the subject matter, perhaps doing this by Skype or other videoconferencing facilities?

Mr Fisher : We do consider using those. For instance, in the past I have used video messages and have tried to use Skype; others have done the same.

Senator WONG: Why did you rule that out for this conference?

Mr Fisher : We did not rule it out for this conference.

Senator WONG: But you did, because you brought people to Paris instead of doing it by another means.

Mr Fisher : Elements of the conference we can deliver by Skype, by videoconferencing; elements we choose to do otherwise. We choose to provide training sometimes in person.

Ms Adamson : Perhaps I could just add to that?

Senator WONG: Before you add to that, my question was going to be: why did you say that you believe this conference needed to be attended in person? Is that what you are going to get to?

Ms Adamson : I am going to that point.

Senator WONG: There you go. You anticipated it.

Ms Adamson : Typically at these conferences—just to be clear with the committee—we divide the world into six regions. Each region has a regional management conference about every 18 months, as I said. That means we are effectively holding these around the world four times a year—that is how the maths works.

Typically, they bring in all aspects of the management of our overseas posts, including elements of the service that our posts overseas provide to Australians—consular and passport services—to which the government attaches a very high priority, as rightly does the Australian public. They also include elements of training in security matters: physical security, information security and the security of our staff. Given events which have taken place in Europe over the last year plus, it was thought to be important that staff were given an opportunity to hear from our chief security officer, who travelled from Canberra, and a range of other staff who are experts in their fields and who are able to ensure that our staff overseas perform to the expectations of the government and the Australian people, given the wide range of risks that they bear, given the circumstances in which they are operating and given the fact that many of these are very small posts operating under difficult circumstances.

So I would like the committee to be aware of that broader perspective and I am happy to take further questions on the purpose—a legitimate purpose, in my view, and a purpose which I will support as secretary, given that we have been doing these events for the last 30 years.

Senator WONG: I understand the logic behind a regional conference. I think the issue here is the choice of location and cost. But I do just want to ask: are you satisfied, Secretary, that it was reasonable and necessary for 22—to use your figure—to attend the conference in Paris?

Ms Adamson : I have looked at the list of the names of staff who attended this conference. Obviously the planning took place before I became secretary. But I have looked at the list of the names of staff who attended and I can understand, from their perspective and their managers' perspectives, why they felt on this occasion that it was necessary to be present.

Senator GALLACHER: Did you at least get a good deal on Singapore Airlines out of Canberra airport?

Ms Adamson : We are always looking for good deals on any airlines out of whatever airports. But I think Mr Fisher has said that he will take on notice—and he has taken on notice—the routes and costs associated with all of that.

Mr Fisher : And regrettably that was Singapore Airlines—

CHAIR: I want to go to Senator Fawcett on this topic and then I am going to go to Senator Rhiannon, but I would make the observation that Paris at the moment is not exactly the desired location that it has been in the past, unfortunately.

Senator GALLACHER: Speak for yourself.

CHAIR: I am speaking for myself. As a matter of fact, at my own expense, self-funded, I was there early this year and I can assure you that the hotels are empty. Senator Fawcett.

Senator FAWCETT: The Secretary has made the point that this process has been occurring for a number of years. How often in the past has Paris been the choice of location?

Mr Fisher : I could not say exactly. My records go back a little while but not back 30 years.

Senator FAWCETT: Let us go back to 2011, 2012—that sort of time frame.

Mr Fisher : In the records that I have, Paris has not been used in the past.

Senator FAWCETT: What locations were used, for example?

Mr Fisher : Most recently, Amman, Hong Kong, Wellington, Mexico, Johannesburg, London, Kuala Lumpur, Nandi—a range of locations. Most of them are used because of their centrality.

Senator FAWCETT: You had 40-odd people—46, I think you said—at this conference. How many people would normally attend?

Mr Fisher : It ranges, depending on the area. The conferences have gone as high as just a bit over 80 and typically there is somewhere between 30 and 50.

Senator FAWCETT: But clearly it is more cost effective to take trainers to them rather than bring the entire cohort to Australia.

Mr Fisher : Certainly, and that is what we have done.

Senator RHIANNON: The Australian government is committed to being at the forefront of efforts to empower women and girls and to promote gender equality, particularly in our region, and I know that this is an interest of the minister. One of the 10 performance targets for Australia's aid program is to ensure that more than 80 per cent of investments, regardless of their objectives, will effectively address gender issues. What is the percentage of overseas development investments that address gender issues?

Mr McDonald : In relation to the targets, you are right: we have a target that was set by the foreign minister to have 80 per cent of our investments effectively integrate gender into our investments. That target is a very robust target. It has progressively increased. You would know that the target is 80 per cent and it is up to about 78 per cent at the moment; we started when it was about 72 per cent. So we are very focused on it. It is being considered by all our staff in relation to aid investments both in Canberra and in overseas posts—and we are very focused on it. You would also be aware that the foreign minister established a gender fund, which was $50 million last year and is $55 million this year, and we have recently announced some proposals associated with that in terms of investments with NGOs and other partners. So this is a very high focus of ours.

Senator RHIANNON: What is the overall budget? Do you actually have a monetary amount or are you looking at it in a percentage sense because you are taking it across a whole range of programs?

Mr McDonald : I think we are taking it in two ways. There are specific initiatives that we put in place. There is also a requirement to integrate it in all our investments; and the reason for that is that you want people to think about gender as front and centre in our investments—that it is an integrated part of our investments—and that is the approach that we have been taking.

Senator RHIANNON: Can you give a budget allocation for the priority area of gender equality and empowering women and girls?

Mr McDonald : I can. I am happy to take that on notice, but can I say that it will be extensive when we have a budget of $3.8 billion. A large proportion of that will cover initiatives that cover gender-specific activities in terms of integrating those into our investments.

Senator RHIANNON: Can you provide a breakdown of that by country and by program?

Mr McDonald : I am happy to take that on notice.

Senator RHIANNON: What I am trying to understand here—and I imagine that it is a challenge for you, considering the range of programs that you are responsible for—is, when you get to the specific project, how you determine the gender aspects and the empowering aspects of that. How do you ensure that they happen and how do you then decide what the percentage is? Can you provide that level of detail regarding how you make those determinations?

Mr McDonald : As I said we will take that on notice and provide it to you. It is important that you know that we are very focused on integrating this in our investments so that women's and girls' gender equality is always considered within our investments—and not only that they are put in the investments; I think it is important that they are effective. Part of the performance target around this is about effectiveness, and we measure the effectiveness. We have a very robust target. Being able to identify a specific component of an investment that just covers 'gender specific' is difficult because we want it to be integrated. From my point of view, over the last three years the focus on this has really improved in the organisation. People are very conscious of it and it is a very high priority for us.

Senator RHIANNON: Thank you; I certainly hear that. I think it is important to understand that. You have come up with this specific figure of 80 per cent but you have just acknowledged in your answer how diffuse it is. In many ways you want it to be, because you want it to be integrated at the highest level. How do you then come up with such a percentage? If you could explain that, it would be useful.

Mr McDonald : The 80 per cent target is a very robust target because it is about the effectiveness of integrating gender-specific initiatives into our programs. How are they measured? They are measured through our performance system, which is very robust, and which looks at all of our programs and projects. Those assessments are then quality assured by our development and effectiveness area. So we have a very robust system to measure this. I do not think there is any problem in the sense that we are measuring it effectively. Your question was about the amount of money that is specifically for gender, and I think that is a more difficult thing to pull out when you are integrating it into our overall program.

Senator RHIANNON: I will have a look at it when it comes back and come back to you. I have a couple of specific questions. I noted that there was a particular emphasis on projects about reducing violence, in terms of the issue around gender and empowerment. Can you provide us with an update on the programs that are being undertaken in that field?

Mr McDonald : Yes, I certainly can. I will ask Dr Strahan to provide more detail on that.

Dr Strahan : Several streams of our program go to the issue of reducing and eliminating violence against women. One component is a series of projects which are run through the department, usually by our posts in conjunction with external partners. To give you an example of some of the projects that we have run under that kind of program, for instance, in the last year we have done a program in Timor Leste on eradicating violence through innovative approaches to women's empowerment. We have done a program in Sri Lanka, working with the Sri Lankan police force, on a train the trainer module. We also have done a program in Afghanistan on eliminating violence against women, working with UN Women. We also provide some core funding to organisations like UN Women to end violence against women. That has several components. I will give you a couple of examples of how that component works. For instance, we have one stream which engages parliamentarians in promoting gender equality and women's empowerment, with an emphasis on violence. We contribute to the UN Trust Fund to End Violence against Women. We also contribute to a project called the joint UN essential services for women and girls subjected to violence package. As you can see, through a number of regional projects, specific projects on the ground, we do work on this front. We also contribute to a number of international programs.

Senator RHIANNON: Are any of the programs addressing violence linked with promoting and developing the economic independence of women?

Dr Strahan : Yes. We recognise that there is a clear linkage that, if you empower women economically, give them an income, it makes them more autonomous. I must admit that there is sometimes a backlash factor here. In some contexts, the economic empowerment of women has led to some male retribution. So we are always conscious, when we are implementing any of our projects, of making sure that we do not have any unintended consequences and we pay particular attention to these linkages, which are fairly complex, between economic empowerment and ending violence.

Senator RHIANNON: I understand there was a pilot program to provide curriculum materials on forced marriage. Can you provide any feedback on that? Where is this program going? Has more funding been provided for it and does it continue?

Dr Strahan : I will quickly scan my notes and see whether I have some specific information about that project right now.

Mr McDonald : While Dr Strahan does that, Senator, perhaps we can go back to your question around the value of gender-specific initiatives in the program. I will ask Mr Wood to comment. There was a green book that we put out for the first time earlier this year. On page 19 there is a reference to our expenditure on gender—specific initiatives. I will ask Mr Wood to clarify that.

Mr Wood : As Mr McDonald said, we issued our official statistical summary for 2014-15. In table 13 we specify our expenditure on our official development assistance for gender equality; that totalled $2.384 billion. As Mr McDonald was saying earlier, there are a lot of complexities in identifying this, so it is something that we are comfortable with reporting on retrospectively when we go through the data. In terms of other budget information, I would also highlight that, in our 2016-17 Australian aid budget summary, on page 52, we have a section on gender. That identifies some specific activities such as our $55 million Gender Equality Fund, plus some other initiatives, such as the Investing in Women Initiative. As Mr McDonald said, we will endeavour to provide as good information as we can in response to your question.

Senator RHIANNON: Thank you very much. I want to move on to human trafficking.

CHAIR: Before you do, Senator Moore has questions in the same space.

Senator MOORE: Thank you, Chair. I will come back to it later.

Senator WONG: We were proposing to come to aid a bit later, but I understand that Senator Rhiannon wants to—

Dr Strahan : Senator, would you like me to close the loop on the specific project which you asked about—the forced marriage? The information I have at hand does not cover that particular project, so we will come back to you with information about what we do on forced and child marriage. We see that as a very important theme and we work broadly, through the Commonwealth and the UN and with bilateral partners, on that issue. Lastly, just last week we had an extensive series of consultations on eliminating violence against women where we reached out to a whole series of NGOs and think-tanks. A very important element to this question is data, and capturing good data. So we are putting a lot of extra work into capturing good data. On your specific question, I will make sure that we come back to you, hopefully today; if not, later.

Senator RHIANNON: Thank you for that update. You can come back on it. I want to ask about human trafficking. I would like an update on the department's work on projects to stop human trafficking in South-East Asia and the Pacific.

Mr McDonald : Mr Goledzinowski will be the best person to take that question.

Senator RHIANNON: In the context of the question, I am also interested in what impact the expenditure cuts in this area have had on the projects.

Mr Goledzinowski : This is one of the priorities identified for the government in this area. This has been underlined by a number of initiatives that have taken place this year. The first one was the release by the government of Australia's International Strategy to Combat Human Trafficking and Slavery, which has articulated the sorts of activities that we are currently undertaking in the region and the sorts of activities that we would propose to continue.

That includes some major investments in this area which it is true to say still constitute Australia as the largest investor in human trafficking activities in our immediate region. This includes a $50 million investment to combat trafficking in persons in the Asian region, called AAPTIP, which is the Australia—Asia Program to Combat Trafficking in Persons; and a $20 million investment, in partnership with the International Labour Organisation, called the TRIANGLE program, which particularly focuses on the situation of migrant workers in the region, who, as you know, Senator, are particularly vulnerable to situations of trafficking and forced labour.

At the same time as Minister Bishop announced this strategy, she also announced that my title will be changed. Since the position of ambassador has existed, it has been a position which has dealt with people smuggling. The change in my title in March this year now formally allows me to deal with people trafficking. Symbolically, that really demonstrates Australia's sensitivity to the fact that people trafficking is a significant and growing problem in our region and one which, quite frankly, the countries in our region are more focused on sometimes than people smuggling. That is a very positive development and one which has given us the opportunity to really lead in this region.

In terms of other activities, within the Bali process, of which Australia is co-chair—I co-chair the senior officials level; the minister co-chairs the ministerial level of the Bali process—there are a number of important working groups. The one that has been in existence for the longest and which Australia co-chairs with Indonesia is the working group on human trafficking. In that working group, a number of activities have taken place to combat human trafficking and to strengthen the levels of cooperation between countries and also to strengthen the level of capacity within countries. One example—here we work closely with the Attorney-General's Department—is the development of policy guides, which have been developed by working groups within the region under the Bali process umbrella to create guidelines for countries to legislate on human trafficking and, in particular, to ensure that, within that legislation, proper regard is paid to the need to protect the victims. There was a time when legislation sometimes, in its eagerness to attack the perpetrators, forgot the situation of those who are caught up within that trade.

Senator RHIANNON: Could you expand on that, in terms of what the cuts are to your area of work and what impact that has had—what changes you have had to make?

Mr Goledzinowski : In my particular area of work there have been no cuts; in fact the budget for my particular office was increased in the context of the last budget. In fact we have more money this financial year than we did last financial year.

Senator RHIANNON: I will finish up with a question on water.

Senator FAWCETT: Could I ask a question on that particular issue?

CHAIR: Go ahead, Senator Fawcett.

Senator FAWCETT: With the Bali process, are there any particular areas that you have been focusing on, the outcomes in the report—

Mr Goledzinowski : Yes. It is fair to say that the Bali process has been really re-energised over the last year or two. The ministerial meeting in March, which was co-chaired by Minister Bishop and Minister Marsudi of Indonesia, is recognised now as a very significant meeting in the region. The key outcomes for us were, first of all, the adoption of a political declaration. It is the first time that our region has ever adopted a political declaration, a negotiated instrument, which dealt with the full range of issues—irregular migration, protection issues, the movement of trafficked and smuggled people and orderly disembarkation initiatives, with a particular focus on migrant workers. It is a very comprehensive document and one that I think has surprised a lot of people in terms of its progressive and forward-leaning nature.

One particular aspect of that which we are particularly proud of, article 12, talks about the need to engage more closely with the private sector. We have built on that direction from ministers. We are working now with Mr Andrew Forrest, who is a significant philanthropist and activist in the area of human trafficking and forced labour, to develop a business track to the Bali process.

We are a bit inspired by the B20, which exists to advise the G20 on economic policy, and the APEC business advisory council, which advises APEC on trade policy. We thought if we wanted to really make a significant impact on trafficking and slavery in our region—and modern slavery has been identified by Prime Minister May of Great Britain as 'the human rights issue of our time'—we needed to work with the private sector, because they are the ones who employ migrant workers throughout the region.

When we develop this business track—and we hope to do that before the middle of next year, and I am hoping that Australia will be able to host that meeting—we will create a very high-level business entity which will advise governments in the region on how to deal with human trafficking, smuggling and particularly forced labour and slavery in order particularly to ensure that the legislation that is definitely coming in our region is legislation which is effective, which business can implement and which business will be able to work with.

One last point, if I may, just on legislation: it was announced recently by the foreign minister that we will be looking closely at the UK Modern Slavery Act, which is the international benchmark at the moment of legislation to deal with slavery. Minister Keenan said just a few days ago that we will be formally examining that legislation, reviewing it, to determine its possible applicability in Australia. That is work that will be led by Attorney-General's Department and which my office will also be closely involved in.

CHAIR: Thank you. Senator Rhiannon.

Senator RHIANNON: I had a question on the Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council. How much funding to this critical sanitation program has been cut and what is the impact of those cuts?

Mr McDonald : I will ask Mr Exell to come up. Can I just comment on that, in relation to water, that you would be aware of the focus on SDG6 around safe drinking water and sanitation, and just note that the Prime Minister is part of the High Level Panel on Water, which delivered its action plan in New York last month. So we are very involved in that.

Senator RHIANNON: Thanks.

Mr Exell : In regard to the Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council, my understanding is that there have not been any cuts to the contribution to that organisation. DFAT provided approximately $2.4 million in 2015-16. That runs through to 2018. DFAT also has an agreement with UNICEF to support the sanitation of water for all, through the secretariat for total of $1.1 million. That runs through to December 2019.

Senator RHIANNON: So there have been no cuts?

Mr Exell : That is correct.

Senator RHIANNON: I had figures here that it was moving from $3 million per year that ran from 2012-15 to $1.5 million per year from this year to 2019. Is that inaccurate or are we just looking at the figures in different ways?

Mr Exell : We could be. I am happy to take that on notice. If you add those two figures I quoted, 2.4 and 1.1, you get close to the $3 million that was the previous funding. But I am happy to take that on notice, the difference from the previous period to this period. I do not have a comparison here.

Senator RHIANNON: If you could take it on notice, because what I have from our calculations is that over four years the council is looking at a drop in funding from $12 million to $6 million. If you could just look at the figures?

Mr Exell : And you are referring to specific Australian funding?

Senator RHIANNON: Yes.

Mr Exell : Not total donor funding?

Senator RHIANNON: Yes.

Mr Exell : I will take that on notice.

Senator RHIANNON: Thank you.

CHAIR: Thank you Senator Rhiannon. Senator Wong.

Senator WONG: I was moving on to another topic, if that is all right. Can I go to the discussions in which the department was engaged in respect of the Long Tan commemoration ceremony, please. Is there a particular officer, Secretary? I assume there has been somebody who has been engaged in the process of consultation.

Ms Adamson : Yes.

Senator WONG: Mr Stephens, or Secretary, can someone start by telling me: what was the process for consultation between the governments of Australia and Vietnam for the Long Tan ceremony?

Mr Stephens : We, as the Australian government, had been consulting with the Vietnamese government for 18 months or so in advance of the 50th anniversary of the Long Tan battle. Of course these commemorations have been ongoing for some time, but because this was the 50th anniversary the consultation and organisation had been ongoing for about 18 months.

Senator WONG: Can you tell me: was there a group, was it done through the post? What was the structure of the consultation process? Who was responsible?

Mr Stephens : The precise structure was probably something that the Department of Veterans' Affairs was more involved in, but of course both our—

Senator GALLACHER: Mr Stephens, we took evidence from Veterans' Affairs last night and they sort of passed the parcel to you. Maybe you want to review Hansard, if you can. But they did say that it was not them; it was over to you.

Senator Brandis: I was not, and none of us at the table were, at the Defence estimates last night when the Department of Veterans Affairs' was present; so we do not know what was said. The officer will answer those questions that appear to him to be appropriate and he will make his own judgments. Now if it is his judgment that these questions are appropriately asked elsewhere then he cannot do better than tell you that that is his judgment.

Senator GALLACHER: I just repeat the point that it was handballed to this department—not all of it. They took on board what they could answer. But they did make the comment that foreign affairs was involved in these Long Tan negotiations and those issues.

Senator WONG: That evidence has been given. It might be useful, Mr Stephens, for you to consult. Did anybody watch the estimates from DFAT? I assume you usually do. Were you aware of that evidence?

Mr Stephens : I am aware that the matter came up with DFAT yesterday but I have not had a chance to review the precise evidence.

Senator WONG: You may wish to do that. I actually want to ask you about the structure and the process of the discussions over the 18 months before we got to the announcement issue. Over 18 months you said there was a period of consultation. I want to understand how that occurred. Was it led by the post, was it led by you? Who was responsible for coordinating the consultation with the Vietnamese government?

Mr Stephens : I do not have detailed information on the structure and process. There would have been two processes: obviously one in the country, Vietnam, which both posts in Vietnam would be closely involved in, and—

Senator WONG: If you could just speak a little more clearly. We are having a little trouble.

Mr Stephens : Both posts that we have in Vietnam, the embassy in Hanoi as well as the Consul General in Ho Chi Minh City. In addition there would have been coordination here in Canberra.

Senator WONG: Who in Canberra coordinated? That is the person I would like to ask questions of, if you are not able to assist.

Mr Stephens : I was not in this position over the course of the past 18 months.

Senator WONG: Who was? When did you start this position?

Mr Stephens : About four months ago.

Senator WONG: We can talk to you then about the last four months, presumably. But is there any one, Secretary, who can assist me about the preceding 14 months?

Ms Adamson : I support what Mr Stephens said, in terms of my own knowledge of this matter, that the posts, both in Hanoi and in Ho Chi Minh City, would have been involved in discussions with the Vietnamese about all aspects of the holding of the Long Tan commemorations. That role is one typically undertaken by posts in countries where commemoration ceremonies are taking place.

Senator WONG: Then I will focus on what you can tell me about that and what was done at the Canberra end because the evidence also is there was a coordinating role in Canberra. But can I just ask you this, Secretary—and you are entitled to answer questions as you wish—whenever officials say 'would have' it is simply a hypothetical. It would be useful to know if that occurred or if it did not occur or if it is the process.

Senator Brandis: That is not necessarily correct. If an official says that something would have happened, the most likely construction of that is that they are drawing upon their knowledge of the customs and practices of the department to infer that that would have happened because that is the custom and practice of department. They are not speculating on hypotheticals.

Senator WONG: All right, I will ask the direct question. Secretary, can you tell this committee that the post, whether it is in Hanoi or the Consul General, is it, in Ho Chi Minh City, did engage in consultations with the Vietnamese government over an 18-month period?

Ms Adamson : I can tell you that our posts engaged in consultations with the Vietnamese in the period preceding the holding of the commemoration.

Senator GALLACHER: Can I put it to you that we asked Veterans' Affairs last night. The minister described the result as a 'kick in the guts'. Did you do any evaluation of your efforts? That is the question to foreign affairs. If the result described by your own minister was 'a kick in the guts', can you tell us what went on in the negotiating period?

Senator Brandis: Through you, Mr Chairman, it is quite unfair to a witness to put to her or him something that you assert, Senator Gallacher, was said last night without allowing the official to review the transcript, the Hansard, or to understand the context. So I do not think you should be pressing Ms Adamson or the officers to comment on that which was said elsewhere yesterday, merely on the basis of your assertion or your interpretation of that which was said.

Senator GALLACHER: It is a different question. The minister described the result as 'a kick in the guts'.

Senator Brandis: Let foreign affairs have a look at the Hansard.

Senator GALLACHER: I am just asking foreign affairs what involvement they had in delivering the 'kick in the guts'.

Senator Brandis: Let us have a look at the Hansard. I am sure Senator Wong can pursue this line of questioning without your assistance, Senator Gallacher, frankly.

Senator WONG: I am always grateful for assistance.

Senator Brandis: The secretary and the senior officials at the table have shown a readiness and willingness to be responsive.

Senator WONG: Ms Adamson, I know what a disciplined organisation DFAT is. If you have had meetings, if the posts have had meetings, they would inform Canberra. I am just trying to get a sense of what happened over the last 18 months. Surely you are able to give us some sense of there were 20 meetings, there were regular meetings, this is how we understood the process to be proceeding. This is an issue about which many Australians feel very strongly. I think there was bipartisan concern over what occurred. We are trying to get a sense of the process leading up to it. How can you assist me?

Ms Adamson : I can tell you that the governments of Australia and Vietnam discussed and worked closely for 18 months to prepare for the anniversary commemorations. Since 1989 local authorities have permitted commemoration events at the Long Tan cross site. I can also say that it seems—and this is a matter that I have discussed with our outgoing ambassador in Hanoi—the heightened media interest and the large number of Australians, around about 1200, who travelled to Long Tan raised Vietnamese concerns and led to the government's late cancellation. Obviously it was disappointing that we did not receive earlier notice that the long-planned commemorations would not proceed. I think you were aware—this is a matter of public record—that the Prime Minister and Minister For Foreign Affairs spoke to their Vietnamese counterparts late on 17 August requesting a reversal of Vietnam's late decision.

It was then agreed that groups of fewer than 100 would be able to visit the Long Tan site for private commemorations. I am advised that about 1,000 veterans and their families paid their respects on 18 and 19 August although clearly some veterans were unable to visit, as access was temporarily blocked.

Senator WONG: Are you able to tell me—you obviously will need to consult—how many meetings occurred between staff or the ambassador at the embassy or the consul general and the Vietnamese government in the preceding 18 months? You have asserted, and so has the minister, we have had a period of 18 months to prepare. So I would like to know how many meetings was this raised at.

Ms Adamson : I will endeavour to get that information for you.

Senator WONG: Now I want to ask about the Canberra end. Mr Stephens says it was coordinated in Canberra. Which part of DFAT was coordinating this? Was that your branch? Is it a branch, Mr Stephens, or a division? A division; I am sorry.

Mr Stephens : The principal coordination was happening on the ground in Vietnam. There were coordination mechanisms and consultations also here in Canberra but the principal coordination was happening in Vietnam.

Senator WONG: Was the consultation and coordination with the FAS of your division?

Mr Stephens : Yes.

Senator WONG: But that was someone else until four months ago?

Mr Stephens : Yes, that is right.

Senator WONG: Is that person still working in DFAT?

Mr Stephens : That person is now our ambassador in Hanoi.

Senator WONG: There you go. Mr Stephens, you can tell me about the last four months?

Mr Stephens : I can tell you that there was coordination and consultation with DVA in Canberra but that the principal coordination occurred on the ground in Vietnam.

Senator WONG: I understand that. What I want to know is this: the secretary and the minister have both referenced—and I think you even used the same phrasing; very disciplined! —that you were aware of Vietnamese concerns about the number of visitors et cetera. I want to understand when DFAT first became aware of a concern being expressed by Vietnam as to the conduct of the ceremony.

Mr Stephens : That was on 16 August.

Senator WONG: Are you telling me prior to that there was no indication of concern that DFAT was aware of, for example, about the numbers of visitors?

Mr Stephens : Yes.

Senator WONG: Ms Adamson, do you want to read what you just read to me about the numbers of visitors? Can you read that sentence again, just so that I can be clear?

Ms Adamson : In relation to how many paid their respects?

Senator WONG: No, what you said earlier—that DFAT was aware of Vietnamese concerns about the number of visitors.

Ms Adamson : I said, Senator, that our interpretation was that the heightened media interest in the large number of Australians—around 1,200—who travelled to Long Tan raised Vietnamese concerns and led to the government's late cancellation. We had been able to establish regular ongoing consultations between both posts and the Vietnamese government in the lead-up to the commemoration.

Senator WONG: When was someone from DFAT first aware of Vietnamese concerns about the number of visitors?

Ms Adamson : I can confirm the evidence that Mr Stephens has just given: that the Australian government was first notified of the decision late on 16 August, less than 48 hours—

Senator WONG: That was not my question.

Ms Adamson : Your question, Senator—when was DFAT—

Senator WONG: When was DFAT or someone from DFAT first aware of concerns? I did not ask when you were notified.

Ms Adamson : My understanding, including on the basis of my discussions with our outgoing ambassador, was that planning had been proceeding and that this notification that came late on 16 August was in fact unexpected.

Senator WONG: That still does not really answer my question.

Senator Brandis: It does, with respect. If it was unexpected—I think Ms Adamson is trying to convey to you that this was the first indication.

Senator WONG: Let us be clear. Is that what you are saying—that DFAT had no knowledge of any Vietnamese concerns about the Long Tan ceremony and, in particular, the numbers of visitors prior to 16 August? Is that really your evidence?

Ms Adamson : Senator, what I am saying is that there had been ongoing planning in support of what was recognised by both our posts as being an important commemoration. It is also the case that my colleagues at our post in Vietnam would have had an awareness—and I use that term in the way that Senator Brandis says that I do—that the Vietnamese government in general has a concern about gatherings of large numbers of people from a stability point of view. That would have been part of the awareness of their local conditions, but they had been proceeding to plan this ceremony on the basis of commemoration events having been held in previous years and in the expectation that there were larger numbers of people travelling on this occasion.

Senator WONG: Secretary, there has been some media—and I want to give DFAT the opportunity to comment on it—from veterans making assertions about these concerns being communicated or discussed some weeks prior to the ceremony. I will ask some questions about an ABC report which refers to the commander of D Company 6RAR which fought at the battle of Long Tan. His name is Harry Smith. He said to the ABC:

It was mentioned some weeks ago when I was in Canberra that Hanoi was a bit worried about the number of people expectedlike 3,000and it was all getting too much, too big, getting out of hand… .

Are you aware of those comments?

Ms Adamson : I am not aware of those comments. I have read and listened to some of the media around that. The basis on which I have provided my answers is on the basis of discussion with our outgoing head of mission and discussions within the department that ultimately the decision taken by the Vietnamese was not expected, notwithstanding an appreciation that gatherings of large numbers of people in Vietnam, whether Vietnamese or foreigners, had on occasions been a cause for concern.

Senator WONG: Mr Stephens, have you ever spoken to Mr Smith?

Mr Stephens : No, I have not.

Senator WONG: Does anyone from your division engage with him?

Mr Stephens : I am not aware of that.

Senator WONG: Did anyone from DFAT express the following view that he articulates:

It was mentioned some weeks ago when I was in Canberra that Hanoi was a bit worried about the number of people expected … .

Mr Stephens : We were not aware of that. 16 August was when we found out that there were concerns.

Senator WONG: Are you telling me that you were not aware of any concerns about the event until 16 August? With respect, I do not think that is quite what the secretary is saying. The secretary, as I understand it—and please correct me if this is not an accurate summation of your evidence—is saying that you were aware that numbers of people had previously been a source of—I do not want to use the word 'tension'—concern, a challenge or an issue to be managed in the context of this and other commemorations. Is that broadly correct?

Ms Adamson : That is correct. What I would like to do, given that I was not in place as secretary, and as Mr Stephens, as he says, can talk about the last four months, is take that last question that you have posed on notice.

Senator WONG: Sure. I will give you a copy of this.

Ms Adamson : Thank you.

Senator WONG: It is a printed copy of what was online from the ABC. If you are able to assist us after you make some inquiries, I would appreciate that.

Ms Adamson : Thank you. We will certainly do that.

Senator WONG: Given what you have said, which is that there was, I suppose, a historical understanding of concerns about numbers of visitors and that that might elevate concern about a ceremony or a commemoration, was that view expressed to any of the organisations or tour operators organising visits? Was that passed on?

Ms Adamson : I would have to take that on notice, Senator.

Senator WONG: Do you see my point? If DFAT knew that, historically, if the numbers get too big there is a risk that there may be a negative response, was the management of that risk communicated to those organising the event?

Ms Adamson : I would need to take that on notice, Senator.

Senator WONG: I want to know: did the government, via DFAT, communicate Vietnamese sensitivities to tour operators and others involved in organising the event?

Ms Adamson : As I have said, we will check that for you, Senator.

Senator WONG: Mr Smith also told the Sydney Morning Herald:

The way it's turned out is that Long Tan has been advertised on tickets and advertised on brochures and various things, which is what the Hanoi government said not to happen. It's happened and therefore they've pulled the blind down.

At any point prior to the 16th was DFAT aware of the risk of cancellation for the reasons that Mr Smith describes—that there was a risk that if the numbers were too big the event might be cancelled by the Vietnamese government?

Ms Adamson : Can I get back to you on that also? I would simply like to say that, as a matter of routine planning, any post organising a significant event, including an event of this kind, would normally go through a careful risk assessment process.

Senator WONG: Did such a risk assessment occur in relation to this?

Ms Adamson : I will need to check that but it would be normal, as I have said.

Senator WONG: Prior to the 16th on how many occasions was the foreign minister briefed about the preparations for this event?

Senator Brandis: That really goes to the question of advice to ministers, Senator.

Senator WONG: There are two points about that. One is that I refer you to what the chair read out first—that there is not a blanket proposition against advice to ministers. But I do not want to get into that big argument. I do not actually know what the advice was. I just want to know on how many occasions she was briefed.

Senator Brandis: We will take that on notice, Senator.

Senator WONG: I refer to the time frame around cancellation. I think your evidence, Mr Stephens, was that the department was first notified of the cancellation of the event on 16 August. Is that right?

Mr Stephens : That is correct.

Senator WONG: How was that notification provided or communicated?

Mr Stephens : It was conveyed initially unofficially to our consul general in Ho Chi Minh City by the Vietnamese Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Senator WONG: What was the time and date of that?

Mr Stephens : That was 16 August. It was 10 am local time in Vietnam.

Senator WONG: What is that in Australian time?

Mr Stephens : It is 1 pm.

Senator WONG: One in the afternoon?

Mr Stephens : In Australia, yes.

Senator WONG: On the same day?

Mr Stephens : 16 August.

Senator WONG: Had DFAT the post or anyone in Canberra been advised that this was coming prior to the 10 am unofficial notification?

Mr Stephens : Not to my knowledge.

Senator WONG: Secretary?

Ms Adamson : Not to my knowledge.

Senator WONG: Is there any record of the post advising Canberra that this was a risk or that this was likely to happen?

Ms Adamson : That is part of what I said earlier that we would check, Senator.

Senator WONG: How was that conveyed? How was the notification conveyed unofficially at 10 am?

Mr Stephens : I do not have that information. I assume it was probably by phone but I can take that on notice, Senator.

Senator WONG: When was the government advised?

Mr Stephens : Quite quickly after our consul general—

Senator WONG: How does that happen—the consul general to Canberra?

Mr Stephens : Yes.

Senator WONG: Just give me the process. How does the minister get advised?

Mr Stephens : DFAT would have advised the minister very quickly—

Senator WONG: Who advised the minister? Was that you?

Mr Stephens : No, it was not me.

Senator WONG: Was it the secretary, the deputy secretary or the acting secretary at the time? I want to know how it happened; that is all. So the consul general gets an unofficial phone call; you will get the details from MFA or whatever the Vietnamese name is for the foreign affairs ministry. It is then communicated to the minister's office. I want to know how that chain of communication occurred.

Mr Stephens : I do not have that specific information. I assume it would have been conveyed very quickly to the minister's office by telephone. I can take on notice the specific details.

Ms Adamson : We will get back to you on that, Senator.

CHAIR: It is a good time to suspend for morning tea until 10.45, at which time Senator Leyonhjelm will start asking questions.

Proceedings suspended from 10 : 29 to 10 : 45

CHAIR: Senator Wong would like to raise a point and then we will go to Senator Leyonhjelm.

Senator WONG: Thanks, Chair, and thank you to Senator Leyonhjelm. Mr Wood, could you table, if possible, two tables, so that we can have a look at them. The first is one showing the approved and committed aid funds across the forwards and the second is the breakdown of contracted funds for the 2016-17 program.

Mr Wood : Yes, we have two tables that I can table. The first is for the current financial year, 2016-17, and the second takes our committed activity approvals out to 2020-21. This follows a similar format to tables we provided most recently at the June 2015 estimates.

Senator WONG: I appreciate that.

Mr Wood : In that case it was table 6 and 7. I am happy to table those.

CHAIR: Senator Leyonhjelm.

Senator LEYONHJELM: I do not know who the right person to answer this question is.

Senator WONG: Start with the secretary.

Senator LEYONHJELM: Have payments from the Australian government to the Clinton Health Access Initiative and the Clinton Foundation ceased?

Ms Adamson : I will ask Deputy Secretary McDonald to answer that question.

Mr McDonald : There are payments occurring at the moment, yes.

Senator LEYONHJELM: On what date was the most recent payment made?

Mr McDonald : When I say 'payment', I should clarify. There is an agreement in place for work in PNG. I will clarify whether the payment has actually been made. There is an arrangement in place for further work with—it is not called the Clinton Foundation. I will give you the exact name as well.

Senator LEYONHJELM: How much has been paid to the foundation so far?

Mr McDonald : Mr Exell could provide that.

Mr Exell : Since 2006 there have been a number of agreements with activities in a range of countries. I cannot provide a figure across Australia entirely. Certainly, from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, since 2006 the total figure is $103,392,042 to the Clinton Foundation and subsequently to an affiliate organisation called the Clinton Health Access Initiative, CHAI.

Senator LEYONHJELM: How much of that has been in the last 12 months?

Mr Exell : I do not have that specific figure. I will have to take that on notice.

Senator LEYONHJELM: Since 2014 a new agreement has been signed, I understand. Since that agreement was signed, have you got a figure for that?

Mr Exell : I think you are referring to an MOU that was signed with CHAI. That was an umbrella agreement that essentially establishes a mechanism for country programs to have country-specific activities. That agreement did not have a specific amount within it.

Senator LEYONHJELM: Is the foundation unusual or unique amongst non-government organisations in respect of this amount of foreign aid funding from the Australian government?

Mr Exell : If you average that out across that period of time, I do not necessarily think it would be unique. It is a non-profit organisation that receives funding from Australia and a range of other countries to undertake specific development activities. I do not think so, Senator.

Senator LEYONHJELM: Would it be near the top—amongst the top ones?

Mr Exell : I would have to take that on notice, for a specific ranking or order.

Senator LEYONHJELM: Could you take that on notice? I am interested to know how it compares to other recipients of aid of a similar nature.

Mr McDonald : I would be surprised if they are at the top. But we will take it on notice. Arrangements like that apply across our NGO sector and our contractor sector. We will give you that answer. But I would be surprised if it was at the top.

Senator LEYONHJELM: What is the competitive process—if there is a competitive process—by which funds are paid to an organisation like the Clinton Foundation?

Mr Exell : To refer to the overall process, there is a range of mechanisms by which the department contracts partners. It depends upon the activity being undertaken; it can depend upon known providers. It ranges from an open competitive process through to direct appointment or direct selection of an individual or an organisation. For each of those arrangements there is a test that you have to go through for Commonwealth funds in order to justify or verify why that partner has been selected. In this case, with the Clinton Foundation, there was an umbrella memorandum of understanding and underneath that there were country-level investments. I think they were mostly by direct engagement.

Mr McDonald : It might be worth adding that any of the priorities within the countries are agreed between us and the country. So it is country-led in terms of their priorities. For example, if this was around health then we look at that priority. We look at what needs to be done. In this case if it was HIV or whatever, we go through our processes to identify the best delivery of that funding. Of course, we monitor and evaluate that as we go.

Senator LEYONHJELM: That is good. The purpose of the payments, as I understand it, is to improve access to health in developing countries. How do you know how much of Australia's funding to the Clinton Foundation was spent outside the United States?

Mr Exell : I note that the majority of the funding has been for health but there was also some funding that included climate-related initiatives, just to clarify that. In terms of your second question, all of the funding goes towards agreed activities that have specific performance-measured benchmarks that relate to activities in the countries where they are meant to be working. From that perspective we would say all of the funds are for work occurring outside America.

Senator LEYONHJELM: The Clinton Foundation is currently controversial in the context of the United States presidential election. There are allegations that funds have been diverted from charity for other purposes. Their own lawyers are saying that their governance was pretty sloppy and that donors' funds did not go towards the purposes they were intended to go to. Is that of concern to you?

Mr Exell : Let me add that at the moment the department does not have any specific agreements with the Clinton Foundation; they have all expired. The only current agreement in place is with CHAI. We have been in communication with CHAI, who have indicated they are undertaking a review of their governance framework, and we are in discussion with them about that.

Mr McDonald : Senator, it would be of concern if those issues are raised. We have processes and procedures in place to ensure that the funding we are providing is being used for the purpose for which it is meant—our monitoring and evaluation systems that we have in place. This money can only be expended in a developing country that is ODA eligible, because that is the requirement around aid funding. If there are specific issues raised with us, we take them very seriously. We investigate those properly and then we take action, if needed. In this case there has been nothing raised with us, other than the one that Mr Exell just raised, and we are working closely with them to ensure that all of our funding has gone to where it should have.

Senator LEYONHJELM: Just to cut to the bottom line, you are reasonably confident that no Australian aid funds have been used in the Clinton re-election campaign, for example?

Mr McDonald : They are used for ODA-eligible countries. That is what we provide the funding for. We have systems in place to ensure that the funding goes to where we want it to go. I have no reason to believe that to be the case, no.

Senator LEYONHJELM: That is good. I will leave it there.

Senator DI NATALE: My first question relates to the issue of two Tibetan political prisoners. I would like to ask some questions about Shokjang, a Tibetan writer and blogger who was detained in March 2015 and sentenced to three years, without any details of the charge; and Tashi Wangchuk, a language activist who is facing 15 years in prison for advocating for the rights of Tibetans to use their mother tongue. He was charged with inciting separatism. Can I ask whether these issues have been raised directly with the Chinese government—the issue of Shokjang and Tashi Wangchuk and their political imprisonment?

Mr Fletcher : Can you please say those names again?

Senator DI NATALE: Shokjang, which is apparently a pen name, and Tashi Wangchuk.

Mr Fletcher : Human rights in Tibet is an issue that has been on our agenda with China in our human rights dialogues and other consultations on human rights matters for some years. I do not believe those two particular cases have been raised specifically with the Chinese, but we have been talking about human rights in Tibet with China in various meetings and during visits to Tibet regularly for the last few years.

Senator DI NATALE: On the specific issue of those two political prisoners, could you undertake, on notice, to see whether there has been any discussion, and, if not, whether there is any intention to raise either of those cases with the Chinese government?

Mr Fletcher : Yes, I can. I can confirm that we have not raised those two cases specifically. But every time we have a human rights dialogue with China we do talk about specific cases. We do think about which cases we are going to mention in particular on those occasions.

Senator DI NATALE: Perhaps I can go to the issue of the human rights dialogue with China. My understanding is that the last one was in 2014; is that correct?

Mr Fletcher : That is correct, yes.

Senator DI NATALE: It is a long time between drinks. When is the next human rights dialogue planned to take place with China?

Mr Fletcher : We do not have a date at the moment but we are continuing to talk to China to try and set a date.

Senator DI NATALE: You are suggesting that that is the appropriate forum for raising these issues, yet we do not know when the next dialogue is planned?

Mr Fletcher : Human rights dialogue is the principal avenue but we raise these issues quite frequently, both in Canberra and in Beijing, and in Tibet when embassy staff visit there.

Senator DI NATALE: Do you have a sense of when the next dialogue will take place? Are we talking about months or years? What is the timetable you are working towards?

Mr Fletcher : We are hoping to have it within months. As I said we do not have a date at the moment.

Senator DI NATALE: Let me ask about the Australian All-Party Parliamentary Group for Tibet. They have been seeking a permit to visit Tibet. I understand that was supported by the foreign minister, Minister Bishop. It appears that progress on that visit has stalled. Can you give an indication as to whether the approach from the Australian government has been officially rejected? Can you indicate whether you have dealt with the issue of reciprocal access to Tibet with the new Chinese ambassador to Canberra, Jingye Cheng?

Mr Fletcher : China is quite careful about visits to Tibet. Sometimes it is difficult for foreign government representatives to visit. In our own case, although we do have access, it is not automatic or sometimes it takes a while. I do not believe they have rejected the application of the parliamentary group to visit Tibet. I will have to check, on notice, whether we have raised it with the new Chinese ambassador. I am not aware of us raising it but I will respond on notice in relation to that.

Senator DI NATALE: My understanding is that the initial approach was made to the then Chinese ambassador in Canberra in 2014. Are we aware as to whether there has been another approach to the new ambassador?

Mr Fletcher : By the parliamentary group?

Senator DI NATALE: Yes; or indeed by the foreign minister?

Mr Fletcher : I will take that on notice.

Senator DI NATALE: Thank you. I think I am done on that specific issue.

Senator FAWCETT: Secretary, this committee did an inquiry into the effectiveness of aid to Papua New Guinea, the report on which was tabled earlier this year. I am conscious of the fact that between the tabling of that and the normal three-month period for a government to reply we have had an election, a long election campaign through the middle of winter and other things. But I would be interested to know where the department is at in terms of working with the government on a reply to that.

Ms Adamson : I will ask Mr McDonald to reply to that.

Mr McDonald : I think we are close to finalising that response. I will ask Mr Sloper to outline exactly where we are up to but I think it is very close to finalisation.

Mr Sloper : Advice is now with government following consultation across agencies and a proposed response to that inquiry. So it is under consideration by the government at this stage.

Senator FAWCETT: Recommendation 10 in particular, which goes to tuberculosis, calls for further investment and innovation in methods to look at controlling tuberculosis. Has DFAT been approached by people who are working in that field in terms of innovation around products and methods of delivering treatment for tuberculosis?

Mr Sloper : We have not been approached by individual companies specifically on innovation but we are in regular consultation with a whole range of NGOs and research institutes about how we can develop our work in that regard. I think my colleague Blair Exell can also speak on a wider remit, if you like, about innovation in regard to health.

Mr Exell : Just to add, yes, we have been in discussion with TB Alliance in particular about work and ideas that they have in the context of the government's announcements of a regional health security initiative. They have provided some information about work that they are doing in PNG, particularly around new drugs for children, which is new and innovative. For the first time ever there are actual child doses that can be used, through TB Alliance, through the Papua New Guinea program and the Papua New Guinean government, which we are helping to support. We are looking at how we can extend that and think about new ideas, both in terms of drugs and regimes, but also in terms of the diagnostics, the tools that we use to assess whether an individual has TB. The technology is actually very old and there are some good breakthroughs that are very close to looking at how that can be more mobile, can be more accurate and can travel to the people themselves.

Senator FAWCETT: Not necessarily constraining it to TB but looking at the broader question of innovation, I am aware of one new innovation of getting people involved in essentially a puffer-type concept. The company that has developed it has undertakings for substantial capital investment from others in the order of tens of millions of dollars but the requirement of one philanthropist is that the Australian government puts in $5 million towards it. Could you describe your internal processes, where there is a real opportunity to leverage off a relatively small contribution from Australia, how your internal processes assess those opportunities and what discretion you have to apply funding to take advantage of an innovation that clearly has the support of a range of bodies but perhaps is an unexpected call on the Australian budget? What discretion do you have to react to those opportunities?

Mr Exell : I can point to a range of mechanisms across the department through the aid program that we can respond to. Whether it is at a country level or in a division like mine, which has more of a global budget, there are opportunities whereby we can respond to new ideas. Sometimes, as you suggested, that is not always easy because as good program managers you look to identify planned expenditure across the board. But always there are opportunities to extend activities or change the profile of our spending to make room.

I would also like to note that a part of the announcement from the government around the regional health security initiative specifically included looking at opportunities to support product development or new approaches or ideas, particularly where it is linking with Australian expertise, linking with global expertise, to bring these things forward. So that is something we are canvassing now with a range of stakeholders and partners around Australia about how we can support that in a more effective way to bring forward new approaches, new ideas, that can help accelerate the impact we are trying to have in developing countries.

Mr McDonald : If I can add, in the InnovationXchange, one of the themes that the Minister has identified is health. In relation to that we have already got six projects that are underway there. Of course that is an opportunity where particularly the InnovationXchange is looking to leverage other funds from elsewhere in terms of cofinancing or a joint financing arrangement and also where there is identification of something that is particularly innovative in its approach but needs some support in order to try to see whether it works. Health is one theme, and economic opportunities is the other in that regard.

Senator FAWCETT: For a group who feel as though they have reached a dead-end, despite what they see as boundless opportunity, is there a process whereby they can go directly to the InnovationXchange or, for want of a better word, is there an appeal process whereby, as they look at our stated policy intent and then reflect on their experience at the coalface, they can try to marry those two up?

Mr McDonald : On that—and we can talk more about this—we have criteria to identify whether something fits within, for example, the InnovationXchange. We also do that often in a panel sort of way because some of it requires expertise in the field. I would encourage them to make contact with the InnovationXchange and have a discussion with them. It is very open. We have people walking in off the street with ideas—that is what we are trying to encourage—but we have a system in place to then evaluate them. There is no appeal process. A delegate needs to make a decision on that. That is a responsibility under the relevant acts. Yes, that is the process. But I would encourage them to have a discussion with the InnovationXchange.

Senator FAWCETT: While we have the officers from the Pacific division here, can I come to Vanuatu—

CHAIR: Just before you do, Senator Moore has a question in this same space, if we can.

Senator MOORE: It is very brief. I am wanting to check on the $100 million over five years for the regional health security partnership fund. I know, Mr Exell, you said people were talking about that at the moment. Is the expectation that that will be distributed over five years? Is there a process for how that will work out over the five years? Is the expectation it will be whatever a fifth of a hundred is each year or how will that work?

Mr Exell : We have not set the pipeline, for example, or the expenditure plan across that period. It probably will not be an exact average of $20 million, for example, per year. That is something we are working on right now.

Mr McDonald : In these initiatives, you would understand that some of these have a slower start-up.

Senator MOORE: Absolutely.

Mr McDonald : We are going through the consultation process. Part of that is getting a good understanding of what we actually need to do to make this commitment as effective as it possibly can be.

Senator MOORE: I think the same people are consulting and lobbying everybody at the moment. We understand that. It is a significant investment and it is the first time that partnerships and innovation have been given that focus. I am wanting to get an idea of the financial package. That is still evolving; is that right?

Mr McDonald : Yes. It will be settled as we get through the consultation process. It will be through discussions with both the CFO and the foreign minister and we will settle it.

Senator MOORE: Thank you.

CHAIR: Senator Fawcett.

Senator FAWCETT: This committee a few years ago had quite a deal of focus on Vanuatu and some of the work we are doing there. In the light of last year's catastrophic disruption to much of their country could you just give us an update on where DFAT's programs are at in Vanuatu, particularly around the training and some of the investment in microbusinesses that we were starting to see some very positive results for on their northern island?

Mr Sloper : Thank you for the question, Senator Fawcett. You are probably familiar, from our earlier discussions, about the immediate response. I might just touch on that briefly and then go to what we are doing now and what is planned with the Vanuatu government in terms of reconstruction. Overall we provided $35 million for the long-term recovery. That included immediate response in terms of addressing livelihoods; economic recovery, as you mentioned, in the private sector; restoring health and education facilities. Of that amount, most has now been passed to the Vanuatu government. We have a joint mechanism now where we review projects coming forward, in consultation with the government of Vanuatu, in conjunction with consideration of their disaster risk management response.

As of October 2016, where we are now, 76 per cent of that long-term funding has now been allocated. I will not go to all amounts. I can if you wish. The primary areas of activity are tourism marketing, which were approved late last year; health staffing for recovery; health infrastructure; water infrastructure; agriculture, including fisheries, livestock, biosecurity and seedlings; repair and rebuilding of primary schools in the Tafea Province; promoting tourism through repairing and upgrading bungalows on Tana, which may have been the activity you were referring to; also repairing and upgrading government buildings, police houses.

We are also looking now, with some technical expertise, how we support Vanuatu ministries. As a core part of our broader program we also look at economic growth. The ones that lead directly to the community development will be mainly around the agriculture sector at the moment in terms of the references I made.

Senator FAWCETT: There was also some specific activities investment in water sanitation for some of the quite disadvantaged communities living in very high density with very poor facilities. We saw some specific investment there. I am imagining, given what occurred to the country and the lack of substantial structure for that community, that much of that was destroyed. Have there been any specific efforts to try and restore or help that community recover?

Mr Sloper : I would have to take on notice the detail of that question but I am happy to come back. I will try to do that this afternoon, if I can.

Senator FAWCETT: Thanks.

CHAIR: Senator Wong.

Senator WONG: I want to briefly finish on Long Tan and then move on to another area, if I may. I understand you have taken a range of things on notice, Secretary, so I do not propose to re-traverse them. I do want to ask you first: Minister Bishop gave a press conference on 19 August in which she referenced her conversation with Foreign Minister Minh:

I spoke with him the night before last when we were informed, for the first time, that the Vietnamese government intended to cancel the commemorative service, and he said to me that the concerns and tensions over the presence of a significant number of Australian veterans and their families had been rising. They were concerned at the reaction of local people, the sensitives that the conflict in Vietnam, all those years ago, still brings to the communities in Vietnam.

In the context of that I do want to ask you: in your answers to the questions you have taken on notice, when was DFAT aware of the concerns and tensions rising as per the minister's statement? Second, I want to ask you: who was the lead agency for the consultation? Who do you say was the lead agency for the consultation with the Vietnamese government on this matter?

Ms Adamson : My understanding is that DFAT was the lead agency for the consultations but worked closely with Veterans' Affairs here in Australia who were obviously the main contact point for veterans, as you would expect.

Senator WONG: Can I also ask: in that same transcript Minister Bishop said she was informed the night before last. I think I read that out. If this was on the 19th do I infer that the conversation was on the night of the 17th, or was it on the night of the 16th? There was a press release on the 17th. I am just trying to get a sequence here.

Ms Adamson : Could you confirm which conversation you are referring to?

Senator WONG: Minister Bishop said on 19 August, in reference to the discussion with Foreign Minister Minh:

I spoke with him the night before last when we were informed, for the first time ...

What date do you have for the conversation between the minister and Foreign Minister Minh?

Ms Adamson : The date I have is 17 August. I am advised that the conversation took place at 8.30 pm.

Senator WONG: But the press release from ministers Bishop and Tehan was prior to that conversation?

Ms Adamson : That is correct.

Senator WONG: In fact when the minister says that they were informed for the first time, I assume she means at ministerial level, because in fact the government had been informed the day before.

Ms Adamson : Yes. And there had been a series of conversations, obviously, involving our heads of mission and others around what we might be able to do in relation to the commemorations.

Senator WONG: I think she does confirm that she first knew two days ago.

Ms Adamson : Yes.

Senator WONG: I assume she is talking about ministerial level.

Ms Adamson : Yes.

Senator WONG: Can I turn now to—there are a number of them—assistance provided to former prime ministers, in particular to Mr Abbott. You tabled a document in February showing assistance to all former prime ministers to date. That would have been at early February 2016. Can I first ask—I do not know if you have come with it or you may need to update it—what assistance has the department and posts overseas provided to former Prime Minister Abbott with overseas travel since January this year?

Ms Logan : Senator, I can answer that. Since January this year, there were five occasions on which our posts overseas provided assistance to former Prime Minister Abbott.

Senator WONG: Five occasions in what time frame?

Ms Logan : You asked since January, Senator?

Senator WONG: Yes.

Ms Logan : Since 26 January.

Senator WONG: Can you run through them, if there are only five?

Ms Logan : Yes, I can.

Senator WONG: Could the secretariat give me the document on this point that was tabled in February 2016? I will come back to that. Ms Logan, go ahead.

Ms Logan : The first visit was to the United States, from 26 January to 2 February. The assistance requested related to airport facilitation and some assistance with arranging meetings and ground transport. That assistance was provided by our posts in Los Angeles, New York and Washington. The second occasion was a visit to Japan, from 26 to 28 February. The assistance requested was airport facilitation, assistance with arranging meetings and ground transport. Again that was provided by our post in Tokyo.

The third visit was to Ukraine, from 18 to 20 March. Assistance requested was airport facilitation and assistance with arranging meetings. My notes say that Mr Abbott was a guest of the Ukrainian government. The Ukrainian government initiated and provided airport facilitation and ground transport but the post helped with arranging the program. The fourth visit was to the United Kingdom, from 20 to 24 March. The post provided assistance with airport facilitation, ground transport and some meetings. The fifth visit was to the United States, from 28 to 30 September. Assistance requested was airport facilitation and ground transport. That was provided by posts in Los Angeles and New York.

Senator Brandis: Senator Wong, I can give you some additional information that will help to contextualise this. During the same period DFAT provided assistance to Mr Rudd on 15 occasions, to Ms Gillard on 16 occasions, to Mr Howard on two occasions, to Mr Hawke on one occasion, and none to Mr Keating.

Senator WONG: Thank you for raising that. Ms Logan, I have now been provided with the additional estimates information. Do you have an update that you can table?

Ms Logan : There is the travel he did in late 2015, but I am assuming you are not referring to that?

Senator WONG: I would like this document updated to date.

Ms Logan : This is the information that we have.

Senator Brandis: We do not have up-to-date figures, Senator.

Senator WONG: The document includes the information that the minister just read out?

Ms Logan : About all the other former prime ministerial travel?

Senator WONG: Correct.

Ms Logan : Yes, of course.

Senator WONG: How long would that take?

Ms Logan : Quite a while.

Senator WONG: Could I get it later today?

Ms Logan : We can give it to you.

Senator Brandis: We can provide it almost immediately, Senator.

Senator WONG: I would appreciate that.

Ms Adamson : How far back are you going?

Senator WONG: The minister has essentially orally updated the committee on the information which was provided in February. I think that was the evidence. There may have been some overlap. But over the same time period he said, 'This was what we gave Mr Rudd, Ms Gillard and Mr Howard.'

Senator Brandis: Can I emphasise that I do not criticise the provision of assistance to Mr Rudd on 15 occasions, Ms Gillard on 16 occasions, Mr Abbott on six occasions, Mr Hawke once or Mr Howard twice. Those are the relevant statistics in relation to all living former prime ministers.

Senator WONG: I am interested particularly in the assistance provided to Mr Rudd, but I am happy to have all of that. Could I get that information, and I will come back to it when I get that document. Can I ask this question: do you have costs associated with Mr Abbott's—

Ms Logan : Costs for former prime ministerial travel—I do not have those costs, but we can—

Ms Adamson : Senator, are you asking about the costs of the travel or the costs of the assistance provided?

Senator WONG: The DFAT cost centre, not the Finance cost centre.

Ms Logan : I do not have those details.

Senator WONG: Do you assign it?

Ms Logan : Costs for former PM travel?

Senator WONG: No. I assume the Department of Finance pays for the airfares and so forth—is that right?

Ms Adamson : Not necessarily. It is on a case-by-case basis. If I can speak from relatively recent experience as a head of mission, when we had a number of former prime ministers visit for a variety of purposes, typically ground transport, if it occurs during a working day it is of no additional marginal cost—

Senator WONG: I should have been clear. Airfares: who pays for them?

Ms Adamson : It is on a case-by-case basis. Sometimes they will be paid for privately, depending on the nature of the visit. Sometimes they will be paid for by a range of organisations.

Senator Brandis: However, Senator Wong, you asked about Mr Abbott. I have that information in his case. On no occasion did the assistance include airfares.

Senator WONG: I am sorry?

Senator Brandis: On no occasion did the assistance include airfares.

Senator WONG: Okay. So it would just be whatever the costs of—

Senator Brandis: I can read out the particulars, if you like, Senator Wong.

Senator WONG: It would be helpful, Chair, because we do not have a lot of time and we have a lot of matters to cover. If some information that the minister is happy with can be tabled, then we can see whether I need to ask any more questions.

Senator Brandis: Why can't we—

Senator WONG: Can I go to the next point?

Senator Brandis: Senator, why don't—

Senator WONG: Chair, I have suggested a reasonable way forward.

CHAIR: I think the minister—

Senator Brandis: I am suggesting a way—

CHAIR: A solution would be to table the document, so that it is there for us all, and if we need to come back to it we can.

Senator WONG: Thank you. I may not need to come back to it, Chair.

CHAIR: Thank you; if you could do that.

Senator Brandis: I will get some instructions from the minister whom I represent. Because we have this information right here at the table, I think I had better not table it without her express permission.

Senator WONG: Sure. I am happy to come back to it later.

Senator Brandis: I will seek that now.

Senator WONG: Thank you.

Senator Brandis: If I can, I will.

Senator WONG: On 18 September Mr Abbott addressed the Alliance of European Conservatives and Reformists in Prague, which I assume was in the third trip that you outlined there, Ms Logan?

Ms Logan : We do not always get asked for assistance for former PMs' overseas travel. It may be that on that occasion we were not.

Senator WONG: Okay. Was DFAT aware of this event before it took place?

Ms Logan : What were the dates again, Senator?

Senator WONG: 17 September 2016—Mr Abbott's address to the Alliance of European Conservatives and Reformists—

Senator Brandis: No. There was no assistance provided in relation to that. The only request of the department at that time from Mr Abbott was in relation to airport facilitation in the United States.

Senator WONG: I think the Ukraine was the evidence given earlier, wasn't it? No, I think you are right.

Senator Brandis: You asked about September.

Senator WONG: I am sorry; you are right.

Senator Brandis: There was no request from Mr Abbott for assistance in Europe in September.

Senator WONG: I asked whether DFAT was aware of the event—that is, the conference at which Mr Abbott spoke.

Ms Logan : My colleague from Europe division might be able to provide some more information on that. In terms of facilitation, we were not requested.

Senator WONG: I have moved on from that.

Ms Hand : You have asked whether DFAT was aware of that conference. As you probably know, our ambassador in Brussels attended it on those dates. So we were aware that the conference was taking place.

Senator WONG: Did DFAT have an advance copy of Mr Abbott's remarks?

Ms Hand : No, we had nothing to do with Mr Abbott's engagement.

Senator WONG: No-one from DFAT cleared Mr Abbott's speech for that event? You are smiling at me, Ms Adamson.

Ms Adamson : I am smiling, Senator. Ms Hand has said that DFAT was not aware of the speech beforehand; so, naturally enough, there would not have been a clearance process. Nor would we ever expect there to be one for former prime ministers giving speeches at overseas posts.

Senator WONG: Was the speech cleared at a political level, Minister?

Senator Brandis: I am not familiar with the speech. Given that, as you said, the speech was given in September this year, Mr Abbott spoke as a backbench member of the House of Representatives and, of course, as a former prime minister. I cannot imagine any circumstances in which it would have been cleared or would have needed to be cleared. I would be reasonably certain that the answer to your question was no, because that does not happen in relation to backbench members of parliament.

Senator WONG: In that speech Mr Abbott said:

I am proud to declare that I am for Europe—because western civilisation, now emulated the world-over, remains the highest and the best manifestation of the universal dream of justice, freedom and prosperity.

Senator Brandis, does that represent government policy?

Senator Brandis: I would want to read the whole speech, Senator. Certainly, this government, as a Liberal government, does uphold and adhere to the principles of European enlightenment.

Senator WONG: Secretary, do you understand that to be the government's policy, that Western civilisation—

CHAIR: The minister has just answered the question.

Senator Brandis: You asked the question of me.

Senator WONG: I am asking what the secretary's understanding of government policy is.

Senator Brandis: These are noble sentiments, Senator Wong.

CHAIR: The minister has responded.

Senator WONG: 'Western civilisation remains the highest and best manifestation of the universal dream of justice, freedom and prosperity.'

Senator Brandis: These are very noble sentiments, Senator Wong.

Senator WONG: They are noble sentiments?

Senator Brandis: They are very noble sentiments

Senator WONG: Are they government policy?

Senator Brandis: I do not think it would be accurate to describe a rhetorical trope like that as policy.

Senator WONG: Does it represent the view of the government?

Senator Brandis: The views of the government about philosophy are as espoused by the leader of the government from time to time. I refer you, for example, to Mr Turnbull's Menzies lecture in which he espoused the philosophy of the Liberal Party, which is the principal partner of the government which he leads.

Senator WONG: Ms Hand, which ambassador attended?

Ms Hand : Mark Higgie, our ambassador in Brussels.

Senator WONG: Would that be a common event for the ambassador to attend? I am not sure how often it has been held.

Ms Hand : It is common practice for ambassadors to follow political events in the countries to which they are accredited. In this case Ambassador Higgie is in Brussels, following closely events in the EU. Ambassadors are regularly invited to these things either as observers or as part of the program. It is not an uncommon thing.

Senator Brandis: I might add, Senator Wong—you may or may not be aware, but I am aware—that Dr Higgie is a friend of Mr Abbott's.

Senator WONG: Congratulations.

Senator Brandis: So it would not be at all surprising, when Mr Abbott was giving a speech in the city where the ambassador lived, that he attended a speech given by somebody who was a friend of his.

Senator WONG: Did Dr Higgie attend because the former prime minister was giving a speech?

Senator Brandis: I am sorry, I should correct that; the speech was given in Prague, I am told.

Senator WONG: Yes.

Ms Hand : I have no idea about that connection, Senator Wong. Ambassador Higgie has been to political conferences across the spectrum of political interest.

Ms Adamson : As our heads of mission in countries where elections are held and more broadly in Europe would normally do.

Senator WONG: I am moving on; it is okay.

Senator Brandis: If you are moving on, Senator, that is probably a good idea.

Senator WONG: Mr Abbott also attended the CQS investor forum on 30 September 2016. I am assuming, given your comments in relation to my earlier questions, that DFAT was neither aware of the content of the speech nor cleared it; is that right?

CHAIR: That was in Washington, was it?

Senator WONG: New York, I think. I have a transcript that says New York. Would that be right?

Senator Brandis: The department provided assistance to Mr Abbott in the United States between 28 and 30 September in Los Angeles and New York.

Senator WONG: I was asking a different question. I said—so I do not have to go through it all again—given the evidence about practice that the minister and the secretary indicated, can I infer that the department was neither aware of the content of the speech nor cleared it prior to it being given?

Ms Adamson : That would be correct.

Senator WONG: Thank you. The speech references an attack on Taiwan. This is talking obviously about China's view. He states as follows:

At the very least, an attack on Taiwan would prompt a new cold war in East Asia. Trade would slump, military spending would skyrocket. The walls would go up as the lights went out right around our region.

My question is: is it helpful for a former prime minister and member of the government to be canvassing an attack on Taiwan?

Senator Brandis: Assuming again that you give a fair account of the remark that you have quoted, Mr Abbott's views are his own. He is, as you know, a backbench member of the House of Representatives. Backbench members of parliament, at least on my side of politics, are free to express their own private views without impediment.

Senator WONG: I understand that is your evidence.

Senator Brandis: That is the case. I think, Senator Wong, you may—

Senator WONG: I had not finished. May I finish my question?

Senator Brandis: I just want to—

Senator WONG: Interrupt.

Senator Brandis: No. I just want to correct what you said. I think you may take it that I have a greater familiarity with the practices of my side of politics than you do, just as I would acknowledge that you have a greater familiarity with the practices of your side of politics than I do. That is the position.

Senator WONG: May I ask a question?

CHAIR: Senator Wong.

Senator WONG: Thank you. Do you think, Minister, that the members of the audiences, whether at the CQS Investor Forum or the Alliance of European Conservatives, took Mr Abbott's comments only as a backbencher or took them to have the weight of a former prime minister of this country? My point is that particularly the discussion about Taiwan is a very inflammatory topic for senior politicians from either side of politics to be raising in a public forum.

Senator Brandis: As Mr Tony Jones would say, 'I take that as a comment.' I have no idea who the audiences were. You are asking me for my views about what these unspecified people might have thought about two speeches, of which you have quoted one sentence from each. Of course I do not know, nor do you, nor is it possible to know.

Senator WONG: Finally, Mr Abbott also spoke on 3 October 2016 to Australian Business in the UK. I think that is the name of the organisation. He made some remarks in quite detail on the proposed FTA:

It should have two key elements:

First, there should be no tariffs or quotas whatsoever on any goods traded between our countries—there should be no exceptions, no carve outs, nothing.

And second, there should be a full recognition of each country's credentials and standards.

I do want to be clear: is that Australia's negotiating position in relation to an FTA with Britain?

Senator Brandis: Mr Abbott does not state, and is not in a position to state and has no authority to state, any such thing. Mr Abbott—assuming that you have put an accurate account of his remarks—was expressing his own private views, which as a backbench member of parliament from the Liberal Party, he is perfectly entitled to do without impediment.

Senator WONG: Thank you. I will move on to the next point. Secretary, there was obviously quite a bit of media in relation to Wyatt Roy, a former coalition member of parliament, and his travel to northern Iraq. Can you tell me: did Mr Roy advise DFAT of his plans to travel to the Middle East?

Ms Adamson : I will ask Jon Philp, first assistant secretary of the relevant division, to work with you on this subject, please.

Mr Philp : Mr Roy did not advise the department of his impending travel—certainly not in my area—and he did not register his travel to Iraq.

Senator WONG: Did he seek any assistance from DFAT for his visit to the Middle East?

Mr Philp : He spoke briefly about his travel—sorry, prior to his travel to the Middle East, no, he did not.

Senator WONG: And what about over there? It has been made public. Mr Sharma, the ambassador, obviously met with Mr Roy. Can you tell me about that?

Mr Philp : Mr Roy intimated to Mr Sharma that he was thinking of travelling to Iraq. Mr Sharma warned him of the dangers of going there and I do not believe they engaged in any further discussion about it.

Senator WONG: Can I just unpack that a little. Mr Sharma met with Mr Roy on or about 15 September. That is on the twitter feed, I think. Can you give me the details of—

Mr Innes-Brown : Mr Sharma met Mr Roy at a dinner on 14 September.

Senator WONG: Met him for dinner?

Mr Innes-Brown : There was a dinner—

Senator WONG: No. I could not hear what you said. Met him for dinner, yes.

Mr Innes-Brown : Not him specifically. There was a broader dinner. There was a function involving the Israel Australia Chamber of Commerce and Mr Roy joined that gathering. Ambassador Sharma was also present at the dinner. That was on the evening of 14 September.

Senator WONG: Was there a further meeting on the 15th?

Mr Innes-Brown : There was a discussion on the 15th, in the margins of another business event. It was a different group. Mr Sharma and Mr Roy were also present at the subsequent event.

Senator WONG: What was the subsequent event?

Mr Innes-Brown : It was a visit to the innovation landing pad in Tel-Aviv. It was organised by an equity crowd funding firm called Our Crowd.

Senator WONG: And at which meeting—I am trying to use a non-pejorative term—

Senator Brandis: Occasion.

Senator WONG: No it was not an occasion. It is when they actually had a discussion. In which discussion did Mr Roy intimate to Ambassador Sharma that he was thinking of travelling to Iraq?

Mr Innes-Brown : At the dinner that I mentioned, on the evening of the 14th, Mr Roy mentioned to Ambassador Sharma that he was thinking of going to Iraq, including Erbil, which is in the Kurdish area. As Mr Philp said, in that initial discussion Mr Sharma said, 'It is dangerous and we don't recommend travelling there.' After that he sent an email to our ambassador in Baghdad, later that night, informing him that Mr Roy might be travelling and our ambassador in Baghdad, Mr Langman, advised Mr Sharma of the travel advice rating, which of course is 'do not travel'. He also mentioned that there is the issue of the declared area in Mosul district and said that if he was to come he should be in contact with the embassy.

The following day, in the margins of the event at the landing pad on the 15th, Mr Sharma conveyed that advice to Mr Roy and at that stage Mr Roy's response was that he was not definitively saying that he was going. He suggested that he was unsure at that stage whether he would travel and if he did he would only go to Kurdistan.

Senator WONG: On notice what I would like is the email from ambassadors Sharma and Langman. I assume you will have to take that on notice unless you are prepared to give that to me now.

Senator Brandis: We will take that on notice.

Senator WONG: Second, I would like to know: as a result of either the conversation on the 14th or the 15th did Ambassador Sharma advise Canberra of Mr Roy's intention?

Mr Innes-Brown : No, he did not.

Senator WONG: Did Ambassador Langman advise Canberra of Mr Roy's intention?

Mr Innes-Brown : No, he did not.

Senator WONG: It seems odd we have got a former MP who is flagging an intention to go to a war zone and no-one—given as I said before, it is a very disciplined, professional organisation; your posts work very effectively and communicate very well—provided that information back to Australia.

CHAIR: I think we will take that as a comment, rather than—

Senator WONG: Oh, sorry. You want me to put a question into it.

CHAIR: I think you should.

Senator WONG: That is probably a reasonable proposition, yes. Secretary, do you not find it odd that that was not communicated?

Ms Adamson : Our heads of mission make, in the course of every day, judgments on a wide range of issues. They are responsible for what happens in their patches and we leave it to them to decide when and whether and who should be informed more broadly.

Senator WONG: When was the minister's office informed?

Mr Innes-Brown : My understanding is that the minister's office learned of this when it broke in the media on 29 September.

Senator WONG: So you have no prior record of any officer of DFAT advising the minister's office?

Mr Innes-Brown : DFAT Canberra only learned of it when it became a media story.

Senator WONG: Sure. But DFAT did know about it, because at least two heads of mission knew about it.

Mr Innes-Brown : That is why I said DFAT Canberra.

Senator WONG: One organisation, I am sure! Just to confirm, there is no record of any communication from any officer of DFAT, wherever they are based, to the minister's office prior to the matter becoming public; is that right?

Mr Innes-Brown : That is my understanding.

Ms Adamson : It is also my understanding.

Senator GALLACHER: Your advice actually says 'do not travel'.

Mr Philp : That is correct. The advice is do not travel to Iraq, and it has done for many years.

Senator GALLACHER: So he was told bluntly the advice was 'do not travel'?

Mr Philp : He was told it was dangerous and he should not—

Senator GALLACHER: Your advice here says 'do not travel'. I just looked at it.

Senator WONG: The minister put out a release on 29 September where she refers to the fact that Mr Roy acted in defiance of government advice. Can I just be clear what is she referencing? Is she referencing the broad travel advice or the specific advice that Mr Sharma gave him?

Mr Philp : No. In that specific instance she was referring to the advice that Australians should not travel to Iraq because of the dangers.

Senator WONG: Was DFAT aware when he entered Iraq?

Mr Philp : No.

Senator WONG: You have a discussion. He then goes into northern Iraq. When does Ambassador Sharma, Ambassador Langman or any other DFAT official first become aware of his presence in northern Iraq?

Mr Philp : I believe it was when it first hit the media.

Mr Innes-Brown : No, hang on.

Senator WONG: Is it your evidence that the missions were not aware?

Mr Innes-Brown : Can I just—

Senator WONG: Clarify that?

Mr Innes-Brown : I have a piece of information on that.

Senator Brandis: While the officer is doing that, it is as well to record that, of course as you know and I know, but perhaps some of those listening to this broadcast may not realise, at the time of which you are speaking Mr Roy was of course a private citizen and no longer a member of parliament.

Senator WONG: I think I opened with 'former member of parliament' so I think that is—

Senator Brandis: Let us just make that very clear for those who are listening. We are speaking of a private citizen, not a member of parliament and not travelling in any official governmental or parliamentary capacity.

Senator WONG: Sorry, you were answering a question, I think.

Mr Innes-Brown : Sorry, could you just repeat the question that you asked before?

Senator WONG: I am trying to understand. I think your evidence is no-one from DFAT Canberra knew anything about it before it hit the media.

Mr Innes-Brown : Yes.

Senator WONG: You have given evidence about at least a couple of discussions and an email conversation between two heads of mission, Iraq and Israel, correct?

Mr Innes-Brown : Yes.

Senator WONG: I am just trying to understand: between that engagement with the two heads of mission and the matter being in the media did anyone at either of those posts—that is, a non-Canberra based DFAT officer—become aware of Mr Roy's travel into northern Iraq?

Mr Innes-Brown : The answer is yes. On 20 September, one of Mr Roy's associates in Iraq contacted the embassy in Baghdad and advised that Mr Roy was in Erbil, the capital of the Kurdish regional government area of Iraq, and asked if there were any meetings that the embassy would suggest. The embassy did not suggest any meetings or offer any support for Mr Roy's program. I am also advised that in that conversation there was no suggestion that Mr Roy would travel outside Erbil.

Senator WONG: Who was contacted?

Mr Innes-Brown : The associate rang the embassy and I believe that he spoke to the deputy head of mission.

Senator WONG: Did the deputy reiterate the advice that had been previously provided in relation to 'do not travel'—the danger et cetera—in that conversation?

Mr Innes-Brown : I will have to take that on notice. The detail that I gave you on that conversation is all that I have at this stage.

Senator WONG: Who was the associate who contacted him or her? I am sorry; I do not know who the deputy head of mission is.

Mr Innes-Brown : The person's name? It was someone called Sam Coates.

Senator WONG: Who is the deputy head of mission?

Mr Innes-Brown : His name is Jonathan Gilbert.

Senator WONG: Was there only one conversation with Mr Gilbert?

Mr Innes-Brown : That is my understanding.

Senator WONG: So there was no other conversation and no other contact until—

Mr Innes-Brown : There was a conversation later, after the media issue blew up.

Senator WONG: My time frame at this stage is until it became public. Was Mr Coates travelling with Mr Roy?

Mr Innes-Brown : Our understanding is that he works in northern Iraq.

Senator WONG: Mr Coates works in northern Iraq?

Mr Innes-Brown : Yes, he is based in northern Iraq.

Senator WONG: Did the deputy head of mission communicate this conversation to anyone?

Mr Innes-Brown : Not to Canberra at that time, no.

Senator WONG: Who did he communicate the conversation to?

Mr Innes-Brown : I do not know. You asked: 'Did he communicate to anyone?' He could have communicated it to the head of mission or another member of staff—

Senator WONG: You do not have any information about what he did with that?

Mr Innes-Brown : No, I do not know. That is why I would need to take it on notice; I would need to get further information on his conversation with Mr Coates.

Senator WONG: Before he goes into northern Iraq, Mr Roy has had two conversations with the ambassador to Israel, and the mission in Iraq is also informed of where he is going; is that right?

Mr Innes-Brown : Mr Roy had two conversations with Ambassador Sharma. His associate had one conversation with the deputy head of mission in Baghdad. As I said, in that conversation, as I understand it, that is when Mr Roy's associate, Mr Coates, told Mr Gilbert that Mr Roy was in Erbil, but he did not indicate that he was planning to travel further afield in Iraq.

Senator WONG: Just to get the geography right, how far is Erbil from the Mosul district, the Mosul declared area?

Mr Innes-Brown : As the crow flies, it could be about a hundred miles, but I would like to take that on notice. It is not a huge distance.

Senator WONG: He is not in an uncontroversial area of the world at this point?

Mr Innes-Brown : No, Erbil is not a declared area.

Senator WONG: No, it was not a declared area. Was it in a 'do not travel' zone?

Mr Innes-Brown : All of Iraq is a 'do not travel' zone.

Senator WONG: Correct. But your evidence is that no-one from DFAT communicated that. No-one in Canberra was made aware of that conversation or the fact that he was in Erbil; is that right?

Mr Innes-Brown : At that time, no.

Senator WONG: To your knowledge, no-one communicated that to the minister's office or to anyone in government?

Mr Innes-Brown : That is correct.

Senator WONG: Chair, I am happy to move on.

Senator LAMBIE: As part of our foreign policy, Australia effectively borrows billions of dollars each year so that we can give it away to many different countries in foreign aid. Often that foreign aid is expressed as a percentage of our GDP. I have found that that percentage cleverly hides the true cost of Australian foreign aid from the average worker who is struggling to pay their bills. Firstly, in dollar terms, can you detail Australia's foreign aid budget for the last 10 years and also for the following 10 years, if you can go that far? I do know that you have done it for five years forward, but do you have it for 10 years?

Mr McDonald : We can certainly provide, on notice, information over the last 10 years. We can certainly advise you what the budget is this year and what the budget is scheduled to be over the forward estimates—the next three years beyond this year. It is $3.8 billion this year. I will ask Mr Wood to add the others.

Mr Wood : The official development assistance budget for 2016-17 is $3.828 billion. It is forecast to increase over the forward estimates. In the next financial year, it is forecast to be $3.912 billion, then $4.010 billion and then $4.110 billion. As Mr McDonald said, we will be able to provide information going back historically. We do not have it immediately to hand, but we will be able to provide that information going back over the period you have specified.

Senator LAMBIE: Thank you. Do you accept that, in order to give away this foreign aid, Australia has to borrow this money?

Senator Brandis: Senator, it is a notorious fact that since the previous Labor government took the budget from a surplus position to a debt position in 2008 Australia does have public debt, and public debt finances an element of public spending. Most public spending, of course, is financed by taxation, but an element of public spending is financed by public debt, and that is why this government is trying very hard to get the debt down. In 2007, when the Liberal Party went out of office, there was no public debt; therefore nothing that the government spent was financed from borrowing, but now there is.

Senator LAMBIE: Attorney, the people of Tasmania would like to know what sort of interest we will be repaying on the money that is borrowed for foreign aid over the next 10 years.

Senator Brandis: Governments issue bonds, and I am not in a position to tell you what the bond rate is in relation to any particular capital raising that the Australian government is engaged in. That is perhaps a question that you could have put to Senator Cormann in the economics estimates.

Senator LAMBIE: I cannot get that on notice?

Senator Brandis: To ask what the bond rate is for Australian government borrowings is not something that I am in a position to tell you.

Senator LAMBIE: No, I just want to know what it is going to cost us to repay the foreign aid.

Senator Brandis: And it is not really a question for DFAT.

Senator LAMBIE: I think it is a fair question.

Senator Brandis: I think it is also wrong—if I may say so, with respect, Senator—to say that the foreign aid budget is, as it were, hypothecated from borrowings. Most of the money that the Australian government spends is raised from taxation, and that includes the overseas development assistance budget. But there is an element of the Australian government's outlays which is raised by bond issues. These are really questions for the economics committee.

Senator LAMBIE: Either way, we have to borrow all of the foreign aid budget at this point in time.

Senator Brandis: Senator, you are isolating or trying to disaggregate from overall government spending a particular item of expenditure and I think, with respect, that is artificial. We raise from tax most of the money that we spend. We raise an element of it, the shortfall, from bond issues and from debt. As to those aggregates, that is really something that you should direct to the finance minister at the economics estimates.

Senator LAMBIE: If we did not spend money on foreign aid, that would help our budget to repair, would it not; is that correct?

Senator Brandis: Senator, it is correct that the size of government spending obviously has an impact on the government's need to borrow if the spending is not entirely covered by taxes and other income that is raised by government. But, with respect, it is quite artificial and wrong to isolate one part of the budget and say, 'That's all from borrowed money,' because no part of the budget is all from borrowed money. We have income and we have outlays, and most of the income, as I have said, comes from taxes. These figures are all available in the budget papers. Because at the moment—and this has been the case since the Labor government blew the budget in 2008—the outlays exceed the revenue raised from taxation, a relatively small element of those total aggregate outlays are raised from government borrowing; in other words, bond issues and the like.

Senator LAMBIE: Attorney-General, I am not going to play the blame game here. I have given you $100 billion worth of savings to use in the next 10 years. There have been other crossbenchers that have given you other savings that you do not want to use. But you are still prepared to take from our age pensioners, one-third of whom are living on or below the poverty line, while we are paying out massive amounts in a foreign aid budget that we are borrowing, whether it be bonds or anything else. The bottom line is that we are borrowing that money.

Senator Brandis: Senator Lambie, the amount that the Australian government spends on social security is vastly greater than the amount we spend on foreign aid. Mr McDonald or Mr Wood might be in a position to indicate to you the percentage of the budget that that $3.828 billion represents in the current financial year.

Mr Wood : It is less than one per cent.

Senator Brandis: Less than one per cent of the budget.

Senator LAMBIE: Many supporters of foreign aid will talk about the money we send to our neighbours in the Pacific, who we all recognise have helped us in our darkest days in World War II, but not many want to talk about the foreign aid that we send to countries that have bigger militaries than ours. How much Australian foreign aid do we send to countries that have larger militaries than ours?

Senator Brandis: I do not think there are any. In terms of the actual outlay on defence, I doubt that there are any. I will check that.

Senator LAMBIE: How much do we give Indonesia each year?

Senator Brandis: I doubt that the outlay by the government of Indonesia on its defence force is greater than the outlay by Australia, but I will check that. It is not a field in which I have any specialist knowledge.

Senator LAMBIE: Indonesia has a defence force 10 times the size of ours. They have spent phenomenal amounts of money over the last two years.

Senator Brandis: I said 'outlay'.

Senator LAMBIE: I am just trying to determine why we are sending them foreign aid.

Senator Brandis: They certainly do have a larger number of personnel in service than Australia, but Australia has military assets that Indonesia does not have. We focus—it has been a very deliberate policy choice of this government, on which perhaps Ms Adamson or Mr Wood might care to elaborate—our aid not only on countries where there is a need for it but also on our region, particularly in the South-West Pacific, because it is in Australia's interests that the relatively poorer nations of the South-West Pacific in particular should be supported in this way by Australia. Mr Wood, would you like to expand on that?

Mr Wood : There is information available on our website and information that we put out on budget night regarding our development assistance budget. I refer to the foreword from the most recent budget document. It notes:

Australian aid is an investment in our region Australians benefit when our region is stable, economically vibrant, open to trade, and home to people who are safe, healthy, educated and employed.

Mr McDonald : Just adding to that, in the region 456 million people live in extreme poverty—on less than $1.90 a day—and with poverty comes poor education, poor health and a lack of economic productivity, and that contributes to instability that we see within the region. Australia benefits if our region is healthy, well educated and able to contribute in an economic way. So a benefit for Australia from a stable region, for example, in health, would be about things like the zika virus and Ebola translating into Australia at some point as a risk if they do not have proper health systems within those countries. Also, an economically viable region means that they have trading opportunities for Australia and the like. So, in terms of that, there is benefit to Australia as well as to the countries that we are providing aid to.

Senator Brandis: I might say that the latest list provided by the International Institute for Strategic Studies of the top 15 defence budgets in the world—this is in American dollars—indicates that Australia has the 12th-largest defence budget of any country in the world but that there is no country in our region, including Indonesia, which appears in the International Institute for Strategic Studies' list of the 15 largest defence budgets in the world.

Senator LAMBIE: Probably we could sit here and expand on and argue about that all morning, but we will move along. Let me get this right: $78.5 million this year will be given to a nuclear-armed nation—an Islamic nuclear-armed nation—that being Pakistan, in Australian foreign aid, which is borrowed. How will that benefit us exactly?

Mr McDonald : I am happy for Ms Klugman to come up and talk about our program in Pakistan. But as I said, in terms of the approach that we take to aid, I have just run through it in terms of the priority around those countries. In relation to Pakistan, it will be some of the requirements that they have around poverty, conflict and fragility, and there are consequences from that in terms of—

Senator LAMBIE: No, I do not need to know that. But I do need to know that it is not in our region; it has a bigger military and is nuclear. So I will just move along.

Mr McDonald : Ms Klugman can give you the detail of the program, if you wish.

Senator LAMBIE: Actually I will just take that on notice; thank you.

Mr McDonald : I think you said $78 million; is that right?

Senator LAMBIE: That is $78.5 million.

Mr Wood : In 2016-17 our bilateral aid to Pakistan is $39.4 million.

Senator LAMBIE: So we are giving close to $40 million to an Islamic nuclear-armed country. That is all I need to know. How is foreign aid managed? Do we write out cheques or give it in cash? Do we give it in goods, products or services? Can you explain that procedure to me, please?

Mr McDonald : In terms of the way that we give aid, we have aid investment plans that are all made public. They are priorities that the country and Australia have in relation to the delivery of aid in that country. We then go through and identify the key areas of focus. It could be education, health or governance. We then identify the investments that meet those priorities. We then have a system within the organisation to evaluate those investments before they go forward and we then have a monitoring-and-evaluation arrangement to see that the investments align with the outcomes expected. It is quite an elaborate process we go through to work out the particular initiatives.

Of course, the Australian government's policy in relation to aid is articulated in the document that we have available. It has a focus on economic growth and to remove people from poverty on a sustainable basis. It has a focus on the private sector and it has a focus on participation so that people within countries can benefit through education and health, and women and girls having access to employment opportunities that arise. Within that context, we have a large humanitarian focus, particularly given the disasters in our region and the like.

Senator Brandis: If I can just add to what Mr McDonald has said, we give foreign aid because there are good humanitarian reasons for doing so but, ultimately, we give foreign aid because it is in our national interest—particularly to support poorer countries in our own region. But I acknowledge the point that you make and remind you that this government has actually reduced spending on foreign aid—we have been criticised for that by some parts of politics—by approximately $12 billion since 2013. At the last election—

Senator LAMBIE: I am very glad you have been doing that since I came here and I have been belting you from the time I have been up here to do that; so I am very grateful. But you could keep going in that area, if you like.

Senator Brandis: We have not done it gladly; we have done it because we have had to find economies to get the budget back under control.

Senator LAMBIE: I would hope that you would be doing it to help our age pensioners; that would be a great result. I will just reduce that question. Can you give me some sort of percentage from over the last five or 10 years that we have actually spent in cash and been giving those countries that receive foreign aid from us? How much do we do in cheque and how much do we actually do with goods? What is about the average?

Mr McDonald : If I understand your question, it is: in what forms do we make payments that have a global—is that what you mean, through, like, the World Bank?

Senator LAMBIE: I just want to know how much you give in a cheque and how much you actually pay out in goods. That is what I am trying to determine.

Senator Brandis: We will get those figures for you.

Senator LAMBIE: Thank you.

Senator Brandis: Just to clarify: you want to know over each of the last 10 years what percentage of the total foreign aid that Australia has given has been by way of transfer payment or cash payment and what percentage has been in goods or services?

Senator LAMBIE: Yes. Thank you for clearing that up.

Mr Wood : We can also highlight in that some of our humanitarian assistance we are providing supplies to regional crises or disasters, obviously.

Senator LAMBIE: Can I have one more question?

CHAIR: One more, yes.

Senator LAMBIE: Thank you. Do we have rules, policies or guidelines which ensure that food, goods or products provided in foreign aid must be Australian made or grown, or is it from other countries that we buy foreign aid to give?

Mr McDonald : We do not have tied aid; so we do not require it to be Australian made or to come from Australia. Identifying what is the best, most efficient way to deliver the aid is how we determine it.

Senator Brandis: But a lot of it is that there is no absolute rule that 100 per cent of it has to be Australian made, when we are talking about goods and services, but in fact a very substantial amount of it is.

Senator LAMBIE: Would I be able to get that information on notice too?

Mr Wood : Yes.

Senator RICE: I want to ask about Australia's participation at Habitat III, which is the United Nations conference that is currently underway in Quito in Ecuador, launching the new UN global urban agenda. It is the biggest urban conference in history, being described as the Olympics of urbanisation, with 45,000 delegates, including over 140 national delegations, 200 city mayors and many of the world's leading academics, architects and urbanist thinkers gathered to discuss how to make cities more sustainable, inclusive and resilient. Yet I understand that Australia has not sent a ministerial or departmental representative. So I am asking: why is this so, given the emphasis of our Prime Minister on the importance of cities and how much those buzzwords 'sustainable, inclusive and resilient' would just naturally fit with the government's purported cities agenda?

Senator Brandis: Before Mr McDonald answers the direct question, I reject entirely the jibe. The Turnbull government is the first Australian government in many, many years actually to have a federal minister for cities and the interest and enthusiasm of Mr Turnbull—and Mrs Turnbull too, as a former Lord Mayor of Sydney—in cities and cities policy is very well known. In relation to this particular conference, Mr McDonald might have something to say.

Mr McDonald : We are represented by our head of mission from the UN New York mission. Gillian Bird is representing Australia and delivered Australia's statement today and, of course, she is a very senior member of the department.

Senator RICE: But what a lost opportunity, given that there are 140 national delegations, for Australia not to have a national delegation other than our UN representatives.

Senator Brandis: As you also know, parliament is sitting this week and if a minister were to absent themselves from parliament for a conference of this kind they would be rightly criticised.

Senator RICE: Do you understand how it is being perceived by the rest of the Australian delegation? I was in communication with one of the urban cities academics and they were so disappointed that Australia did not have a formal national delegation.

Senator Brandis: I do not know which particular academic you may have been speaking to but I am sure that if the aforementioned academic were aware that parliament was sitting this week he or she would perfectly understand.

Senator RICE: Thank you.

Senator WONG: I will just finish up on the Wyatt Roy issue. I think the officer is coming forward. First, just so that I am clear about all of the contact, I think your evidence is that Ambassador Sharma was told by Mr Roy at a dinner on 14 September that he was proposing to travel to northern Iraq. He contacted the ambassador in Baghdad, who provided advice. That advice was conveyed to Mr Roy on 15 September. Also, Mr Roy's associate contacted the Baghdad embassy on 20 September.

Mr Innes-Brown : That is correct, yes; that is my understanding.

Senator WONG: Despite all of those conversations, your evidence is that no-one told Canberra?

Mr Innes-Brown : That is right.

Senator WONG: Can I ask this also: the Prime Minister has said on a couple of occasions and on 3AW on 30 September, 'I've got no doubt that the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade will be taking an interest in his travels.' He also said, 'I expect there will be a debrief from Mr Roy when he returns.' Has that occurred?

Mr Innes-Brown : Not to my knowledge—not to my division and not to the department, I do not think.

Senator WONG: Secretary, across government, has there been a debrief?

Ms Adamson : I would need to check for you.

Senator WONG: Thank you; I appreciate that.

Senator RHIANNON: I want to ask about the situation with Kashmir, please. Have the Australian high commissions in India and Pakistan provided an update on the current situation with regard to Pakistan, and what communications has the minister and the department had with the Indian government and the Pakistan government about this issue?

Ms Klugman : The Australian high commissions in Islamabad and New Delhi are reporting frequently and with a great deal of focus to us on developments in the recently increased tensions between those two countries. The situation with India and Pakistan matters a great deal to regional security in south Asia and more broadly, so it has been a matter of real focus to us. You asked about communications with those governments?

Senator RHIANNON: Yes. The question was: has an update on the current situation with regard to Kashmir been provided and could you share that with us, please?

Ms Klugman : Our high commissions have been updating us on the situation there through the normal diplomatic communications. I am not in a position, given the classification, to release that reporting.

Senator RHIANNON: Is that for security reasons?

Ms Klugman : These are classified reports of the same nature that we receive from our network of embassies and high commissions overseas on matters, including matters with some sort of security implication. What I can tell you though is that by way of recent communications that we have had with those governments—thinking back—most recently I met with the Pakistan high commissioner earlier this week, on 18 October, and I expressed Australia's concern over heightened tensions over Kashmir. I urged restraint, which is the position and the urgings that successive Australian governments have undertaken with the two principal countries involved in this issue for many, many years.

Senator RHIANNON: Has the same been conveyed to the Indian high commissioner?

Ms Klugman : We discussed the same issue with India—most recently, with India's high commissioner to Australia on 29 September, which was the day on which, as you might recall, Senator, India announced that it had undertaken some 'surgical strikes', as they called them, across the line of control.

Senator RHIANNON: This might be a question for you, Ms Adamson. Considering that India is becoming a major trading partner, are there plans to arrange an annual dialogue with India on human rights issues, as is in place for our other major trading partner in the region, China, in the form of the Australia-China human rights dialogue that was set up as long ago as 1997?

Ms Adamson : I will ask Ms Klugman to address that question.

Ms Klugman : We do not have in place—I think you know this, from your question—a specific human rights dialogue with India as part of the suite of our annual and other discussions between the two countries. We do have many other regular meetings in which human rights matters can be raised, and are raised where they need to be and where that is appropriate. At the officials level, the one that is most relevant when it comes to human rights discussions would be our annual senior officials talks. In addition to that, as you know, we have annual meetings between prime ministers and we have annual meetings between ministers of the Australian government and ministers of the Indian government across approximately five portfolios. We also engage with India on human rights matters multilaterally. The most relevant one there is probably through the Human Rights Council in Geneva, where we provide submissions and comments when India, as a member state, comes up for its universal periodic review, just as India makes comments on other members when they are up for universal periodic review. That UPR process last turned its attention to India back in, I think, late 2012 and Australia made a statement.

Senator RHIANNON: I would now like to move on to the United Nations General Assembly resolution about nuclear disarmament negotiations. The question relates to resolution L.41, titled 'Taking forward multilateral nuclear disarmament negotiations', which I understand will be voted on between 26 October and 2 November. It currently has 39 sponsors but not Australia. How does Australia intend to vote on this draft resolution?

Ms Adamson : I will ask Mr Richard Sadleir to answer that question.

Mr Sadleir : We will not be voting for that resolution. Consistent with the position that we took in respect of the OEWG report, we will be voting no with respect to that resolution.

Senator RHIANNON: If it is no and it does not get support, does that mean that the UN General Assembly will then not proceed to convene four weeks of negotiations in New York in March, June and July next year that would be open to all states as well as international organisations and civil societies on—I am quoting from their document—'a legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons leading towards their total elimination'? Is that what will not happen if Australia, along with other countries, does not give this resolution support?

Mr Sadleir : Yes. If the resolution is unsuccessful, that will not proceed. It might be helpful for me to outline Australia's position on the issue of a ban treaty. That position is consistent and clear. We do not support a ban treaty. A ban treaty that does not include the nuclear weapons states or states which possess nuclear weapons and are disconnected from the security environment would be counterproductive and would not lead to reductions in nuclear arsenals. Such a treaty would risk damaging the NPT, including by creating parallel obligations, ambiguity and confusion, and it would deepen divisions between nuclear and non-nuclear weapons states. There would also be no effective verification measures to ensure compliance with such a treaty. Australia participated in the OEWG on nuclear disarmament in good faith and worked hard to negotiate a balanced and factual report that all members could support. At the final session of the OEWG in August, Australia spoke on behalf of 14 countries, explaining why we could not support a consensus report which recommended negotiations on a treaty banning nuclear weapons next year. Australia initiated the vote on the final report which 22 countries, including Australia, voted against, and 13 countries abstained.

Senator RHIANNON: Thirty?

Mr Sadleir : Thirteen.

Senator RHIANNON: Does Australia's opposition have anything to do with its policy of extended nuclear deterrence?

Mr Sadleir : I have outlined a number of the issues that led us to oppose the ban treaty, but it is certainly true that one of our concerns relating to the ban treaty is that the geographical context is not right for such a treaty to progress at this time and—

Senator RHIANNON: Considering that I am running out of time, can I ask this: we have a policy of extended nuclear deterrence—is that correct?

Mr Sadleir : Yes, that is correct.

Senator RHIANNON: Is our opposition—there is obviously significant opposition at the United Nations and it could swing things in a totally different direction—linked to that policy? The conclusion would appear to be yes.

Mr Sadleir : Deterrence and arms control are complementary. Disarmament does not occur in a vacuum and any steps must take into account the broader security environment. Our defence white paper highlights the importance of our alliance with the United States and the critical role played by US strategic nuclear forces in maintaining peace and stability and deterring nuclear threats to Australia.

Senator RHIANNON: Going to the vote, you said that 22 countries voted against and 13 abstained. Did Australia discourage any countries from voting yes?

Mr Sadleir : Australia participated in the negotiations in good faith. We worked hard throughout to try and produce outcomes, bearing in mind that the working group was looking at a broad range of issues; so we participated in good faith. Our decision to call the vote was taken on the basis of national interest and, at the time, a number of other countries shared the concerns that I have expressed to you. Of course, as part of that process, we engaged in dialogue with like-minded countries.

Senator RHIANNON: The conclusion that could be drawn from your answer, although I acknowledge that you have not said it—I am not trying to verbal you; I am just trying to get an answer—is that Australia encouraged other countries not to support this resolution. Is that a fair conclusion?

Mr Sadleir : Yes, the conclusion could be drawn.

Senator RHIANNON: Have the US or any other nuclear armed states urged Australia to vote no?

Mr Sadleir : Australia has been lobbied by many states in terms of their positions in respect of the negotiations.

Senator RHIANNON: Which ones have lobbied?

Mr Sadleir : I would have to take that on notice.

Senator RHIANNON: Take that on notice; thank you. Do you expect the resolution to be defeated or adopted? What advice do you have at the moment?

Mr Sadleir : We will have to wait for the vote. I cannot speculate at this stage.

Senator RHIANNON: I imagine that people you work with ask your advice on that, so—

Senator Brandis: Senator Rhiannon—

CHAIR: That is an opinion, I think.

Senator Brandis: It is fair to ask the officer for his private opinion and he may have a private opinion; but, if he does, that can only be his private opinion.

Senator RHIANNON: Thank you, Minister. Assuming that it is adopted, will Australia participate in the negotiations next year on the prohibition treaty? What do we do afterwards, if it is adopted?

Mr Sadleir : No decision has been taken on that issue.

Senator RHIANNON: Wouldn't Australia want to have a seat at the table and try to help shape the treaty rather than stay outside?

Senator Brandis: Again, Senator Rhiannon, you are asking the officer to offer a private view, which he may or may not have, but, even if he did, it would only be his own private view.

Senator RHIANNON: Thank you, Minister. Apart from a treaty to prohibit and provide for the elimination of nuclear weapons, are there any measures to stigmatise, prohibit and eliminate nuclear weapons which the government realistically expects to be implemented within the next two years?

Mr Sadleir : The approach that the Australian government takes is that there are no quick fixes to securing a world free of nuclear weapons. Our focus has been on coming up with practical building blocks to try and carry forward the ultimate goal of a world free of nuclear weapons, and there are actually quite a number of activities going on which are designed to try and progress nuclear disarmament, bearing in mind that there has been measurable progress. For example, if you look at the way article 6 of the NPT has been progressed, nuclear weapons states have reduced their nuclear arsenals by 80 per cent since the height of the Cold War and from approximately 70,300 weapons in 1986 to an estimated 15,350 in early 2016; that is according to the Federation of American Scientists.

Senator RHIANNON: Because of the time, can I bring you back to the question: apart from this treaty, are there any other measures that will prohibit or eliminate nuclear weapons within the next two years? I understand that the answer is no, and that is what I want to clarify. We have something on the books or something on the table at the moment about to be voted on. Apart from that, is there anything else in terms of addressing nuclear weapons?

Mr Sadleir : We have the nuclear non-proliferation treaty, which is the cornerstone of nuclear disarmament. It is the actual treaty which provides a regime for the elimination of nuclear weapons and it is already on the books.

Senator RHIANNON: Yes, but to advance it, there is nothing else that will actually advance that process that is on the books or on the table at the moment.

Mr Sadleir : There is work being done on things like development of verification mechanisms and so forth, as outlined in our progressive approach, which was tabled in the open-ended working group. There is work going ahead in the IPNDV, for example—which is very good work—on trying to do the very difficult job of creating an environment where you can actually verify nuclear disarmament. That is an example of a positive exercise that is going on. Obviously, continuing work goes on in terms of CTBT entry into force and in terms of maintaining the moratoria on nuclear weapons testing and so forth. So there is a lot going on.

Senator RHIANNON: I might be able to squeeze in one more question; thank you for that. New Zealand has an active military alliance with the United States but does not claim protection from US nuclear weapons and the US has agreed to respect New Zealand's position. Wouldn't it be feasible for Australia to similarly negotiate military cooperation with the US which excludes nuclear weapons?

Senator Brandis: That is a policy question, Senator. That is not the view of the Australian government and it has not been the view of any Australian government on either side of politics for as long as the ANZUS treaty has been in operation.

Senator RHIANNON: Thank you, Minister. Thank you, Chair.

CHAIR: We will suspend now until 1.30.

Proceedings suspended from 12 : 29 to 13 : 29

Senator GALLACHER: I want to ask a random question. There is an AusTender amount of some $88,000 for a consultancy for the former Secretary of Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade. Does someone want to illuminate us on that?

Ms Adamson : Senator, do you have any more information that you could give us to help guide us on what it is that we are looking for?

Senator GALLACHER: Well, the former secretary is being retained on a consultancy arrangement, and that is disclosed on AusTender. That is all we know. We are asking what that is all about.

Mr McDonald : I will try to comment. Certainly, I am not sure if it is that. I can say Peter Varghese, as a former secretary, is participating as a member of the high-level panel that is being done on the development assistance committee work in the OECD. There were requests for high-level panel members who had been outside the Public Service by invitation from the head of the DAC. He was nominated by the Australian government and was selected to be on that panel. He has been to one meeting, which occurred in September. There are two more meetings, and that will complete the work of the panel. So it could be that. I do not know.

Senator GALLACHER: So there is a tender process or an invitation to—

Mr McDonald : No. There was an invitation and then nomination by the Australian government. It had to be someone with expertise in that area, obviously, to contribute to development assistance. And with Peter's knowledge of foreign policy et cetera, he was nominated. I am not sure if that is it. But the only thing that I know of is that. I can check that for you.

Senator GALLACHER: Perhaps Ms Smith is going to bring some information.

Ms Smith : The only thing that I would add to what Mr McDonald has said is that Mr Varghese is not being reimbursed for his time. He is actually being reimbursed only for travel and the costs of participation in the meetings. So it would not be $88,000. I do not know the detail of an $88,000 contract. So far, it has only been an airfare and some kind of accommodation for a couple of days.

Ms Adamson : We will check that for you, Senator, and get back to you as soon as we can.

Senator GALLACHER: Thank you.

Senator WONG: I have a couple of questions—and I will be careful—just about the protocols applicable to ASIS. They do not appear before this committee, obviously. I do not think they do. Is that right?

Mr McDonald : No, they do not.

Ms Adamson : They do not, Senator.

Senator WONG: Is it correct to say that there are a range of protocols associated with ASIS operations? Obviously, one would not talk publicly about an ASIS operation or ASIS personnel.

Ms Adamson : One would not talk in this committee about ASIS.

Senator WONG: Well, in any public context. Do you think it is appropriate that, for example, ASIS—

Ms Adamson : I have to say that I do not think it is appropriate that we discuss anything in relation to ASIS in this committee.

Senator WONG: I will ask that you look at this article, please. I will provide a copy to the Chair and a copy to you. I might give you two so that the minister can have one. This is an article which was on page 1 of TheAustralian on 30 July 2016, headed 'Spies pull out of Asia to fight ISIS'. It says:

Australia’s foreign espionage agency has stripped officers from across its Southeast Asian and central Asian stations, sending spies to the Middle East in an—urgent bid to meet the growing threat posed by Islamic State.

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop has described for the first time how the Australian Secret Intelligence Service retooled in the wake of Islamic State’s success in Iraq and Syria, forging new partnerships with overseas intelligence services and reopening stations … Ms Bishop described the talks she had with ASIS as the Syrian crisis was unfolding in 2013-14.

And then there are direct quotes from Ms Bishop. Secretary, can you explain to me why it is inappropriate for questions—and I agree with your assertion—about ASIS operations to be asked in this committee but it is appropriate for your minister to give on the record comments to a newspaper journalist about ASIS operations?

Ms Adamson : The issues which this committee is able to discuss in open camera have been well traversed over a number of years.

Senator WONG: That is not my question.

Ms Adamson : That is my answer.

Senator WONG: Did DFAT have any knowledge that Ms Bishop was speaking about ASIS operations to TheAustralian before the article appeared?

Ms Adamson : I have nothing to add to what I have already said.

Senator WONG: Was it cleared?

Ms Adamson : I have nothing to add to what I have already said.

Senator WONG: Was there any consultation with DFAT about the disclosure by the minister about aspects of ASIS's operations?

Ms Adamson : There is nothing that I can say about that in this committee.

Senator WONG: I ask that you take it on notice. It is in the portfolio.

Ms Adamson : I am not responsible for ASIS. Matters relating to intelligence are not discussed in a public hearing.

Senator WONG: Sure. I will ask the minister representing the minister. Can the minister explain why it is appropriate for the foreign minister to disclose on the record to a journalist details of ASIS's operations?

Senator Fierravanti-Wells: Senator Wong, the secretary has made comments. I accept what she says. I shall take it on notice and I shall refer it to the foreign minister.

Senator WONG: Thank you. I appreciate that. Secretary, you might need to take this on notice. On how many occasions in the last 12 months has the department sought advice from the Solicitor-General?

Ms Adamson : I will indeed need to take that on notice.

Senator WONG: I have some brief questions in relation to sponsored travel. Do you have travel guidelines for officers? I am trying to understand if there are any guidelines associated with officers taking sponsored travel.

Ms Adamson : There are guidelines on the acceptance of gifts. Within those guidelines on the acceptance of gifts, there are guidelines on sponsored travel.

Senator WONG: Okay. So it is a bit like the parliamentary declaration? Is it under the rubric of gifts?

Ms Adamson : It does come under the rubric of gifts, benefits, hospitality and sponsored travel in our conduct and ethics manual. They are covered as a group.

Senator WONG: Are you able to provide us with an extract of those guidelines that deal with those issues—gifts, benefits and travel?

Ms Adamson : I am sure that we could do that.

Senator WONG: Thank you. Is there a requirement to obtain permission before accepting offers of sponsored travel under those guidelines?

Ms Adamson : I might ask Mr Fisher to go into that matter of detail.

Mr Fisher : Yes, there is a requirement.

Senator WONG: Does the category of gifts include hospitality?

Ms Adamson : Yes, it does.

Senator WONG: There was some newspaper reporting of Mr Hockey, the ambassador to the United States, being one of 450 guests on Mr Lindsay Fox's luxury liner. I want to know whether or not that was approved in accordance with the guidelines?

Mr Fisher : I am not aware of that instance.

Senator WONG: I am reading from an article of 15 July entitled 'Joe Hockey the ambassador of fun at Lindsay Fox birthday'. It states that Mr Hockey was one of 450 guests on a Mediterranean cruise on a luxury liner. I want to know if there was a declaration. You might have to take it on notice.

Senator Fierravanti-Wells: Senator Wong, it would be helpful if you kindly gave us a copy of TheAustralian article. Do you have a copy of that article? It would be really helpful for the officers to know what was said, thank you.

Senator WONG: Sure. I have one here.

Senator Fierravanti-Wells: We could perhaps get it copied, thank you. We will take it on notice.

Senator WONG: Thank you. I would like to know whether there were any other DFAT officers who were on that cruise.

Senator Fierravanti-Wells: We will take that as a package of questions on notice.

Senator WONG: I have some limited questions about a matter which also was in the media, which is the allegation of diversion of Australian aid funds to Hamas. In terms of the process to date, your media release of 5 August 2016 said that the department was investigating that matter. Is that investigation still on foot or has it been concluded?

Mr McDonald : It is still ongoing.

Senator WONG: Is that an internal investigation?

Mr McDonald : One of the investigations is internal. There is an internal investigation and there are some external investigations which Mr Innes-Brown can give you some more detail on.

Mr Innes-Brown : There is the Israeli legal process.

Senator WONG: I am not asking questions about that.

Mr Innes-Brown : Sure, but I am just giving the totality.

Senator WONG: I am just letting you know that, to be fair to you, I am not actually asking for answers about another country's process.

Mr Innes-Brown : We are looking into what we knew and what our processes were. As Mr McDonald said, that is still underway. There are two World Vision inquiries underway. World Vision International has engaged a forensic auditor to look into whether they could possibly have known about the events that are alleged Mr Mohammed El Halabi was involved in. They are looking at their own processes. So that is being run by World Vision International. They have engaged Deloitte to do that. Separately to that, World Vision Australia is doing a review of their processes in relation to their relationship with the World Vision offices in the Middle East. That independent investigation is being done by Ernst and Young.

Senator WONG: So they are World Vision investigations. Did I miss the first part of your evidence. Is there one being conducted by the department as well?

Mr Innes-Brown : Yes. That is right. Mr McDonald said that, yes.

Senator WONG: So where is that being done?

Mr McDonald : Internally, our aid and contracting area. The head of our fraud area is undertaking that investigation. As I have said, it is not yet complete.

Senator WONG: Well, given that, I will not ask too much more about it. Are you able to give us some timeframe around completion?

Mr McDonald : Look, I do not think it is far off. So they have done the investigation. They have done some of the initial work. So maybe in the next few weeks or month. I cannot be definitive because we need the report.

Senator WONG: Need the report to?

Mr McDonald : Well, we need the report to be finalised.

Senator WONG: And the report would be to the secretary?

Mr McDonald : Well, yes, it will be the secretary or the relevant division heads. But it will be considered by the department, yes.

Senator WONG: There are a few AusTender contracts. I will put them on notice. I will go through them. I do not need them, unless you can tell me them now. There is a contract from market researcher Orama. Is that how one says that?

Mr McDonald : Yes.

Senator WONG: I will put these on notice in writing. That might be easier. I have one that I want to ask about, which is the contract notice CN3382013 published on 18 October 2016 giving details of a contract for the provision of hotels, lodging and meeting facilities by Burswood Property Trust. The contract value is about $444,889 for the period 17 October 2016 to May 2017. Can someone tell me a bit about that?

Mr McDonald : I am not sure we do have anyone. No-one is jumping up to answer that. I am not familiar with it myself.

Ms Adamson : We will check and get back to you as soon as we can.

Senator WONG: Can I also on notice have a list of all envoys, special envoys and special ambassadors, rapporteurs and the like in the portfolio? In relation to each of them, can I have the names of current appointees and the date and terms of their appointments?

Ms Adamson : Yes.

Senator WHISH-WILSON: My question is on the terrible bombing of hospital facilities in Yemen, Syria and Afghanistan, which obviously is a matter of significant and immense public concern around the world. There have been at least 23 attacks on hospitals in East Aleppo in the last three months. Every functioning hospital in East Aleppo has been damaged. What is the department's appraisal of the current tactics that are killing civilians in Syria and Yemen, particularly those receiving medical attention?

Mr Innes-Brown : Sorry, Senator. Was the question on how many or just a question about what we are doing about it?

Senator WHISH-WILSON: What is your appraisal of the current tactics that are killing civilians, particularly those seeking medical attention?

Mr Innes-Brown : My assessment is that it is a deliberate tactic of war. I think that is the assessment of most of the international community. There is clearly a campaign underway to terrorise the populace of Aleppo. The Assad regime over the years has used a surround, surrender and starve set of tactics. Eastern Aleppo is now encircled. Obviously, they are trying to deliver as much military ordnance into that area as they possibly can to force those who are resisting there to surrender.

Senator WHISH-WILSON: Is it clear who is actually responsible for the attacks on hospitals?

Mr Innes-Brown : I think the international community is pretty clear that it is Syrian aircraft and possibly Russian aircraft that are responsible for these attacks.

Senator WHISH-WILSON: Could you clarify Australia's position on these acts.

Mr Innes-Brown : We condemn them absolutely.

Senator WHISH-WILSON: Excellent. Are you confident that Australia's activity and operations overseas meet or exceed the rules of engagement, especially in relation to medical and humanitarian personnel facilities and transport?

Mr Innes-Brown : That is really a matter for the Department of Defence. I know the Department of Defence has very robust rules of engagement and that every care is taken to avoid civilian casualties.

Senator WHISH-WILSON: The UN Security Council unanimously passed resolution 2286. I understand that Australia was part of that resolution.

Mr Innes-Brown : My colleague is going to take that.

Mr Bliss : Australia was a co-sponsor of that resolution.

Senator WHISH-WILSON: Excellent. In relation to the recommendations on that resolution, there were a number of them. Are you working with the Department of Defence or other agencies in terms of implementing those recommendations, or can you give us an update on any progress in relation to them?

Mr Bliss : The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, along with the Attorney-General's Department, works very closely and on an ongoing basis with the Department of Defence on issues such as rules of engagement and so on. That is to ensure that the manner in which the ADF engages in conflict is entirely consistent with our obligations under international law.

Senator WHISH-WILSON: Are you prepared to make a comment on the usefulness of this resolution and its recommendations? Are you confident, given over 80 countries signed it, that it will have an impact?

Mr Bliss : Resolution 2286 was a very strong restatement of the international law which applies to the immunity, if you like, that is afforded to hospitals and medical facilities in times of armed conflict. I should note that in many ways that resolution flows directly from the work that Australia did on the Security Council during its term in 2013-14 in which we pursued a series of resolutions which went to the delivery of humanitarian assistance in Syria.

Senator WHISH-WILSON: I have a number of specific questions on those recommendations, but I will put them on notice because I understand the committee is short on time. In terms of the general situation in Syria around Aleppo, I would probably say there has been an escalation of concern in reports about potential conflict between allied forces and the Russian and Assad regime forces. Is this something DFAT is taking seriously? I understand you will be working with the Department of Defence on this. Is there a serious potential for major conflict between allied forces and Russian forces?

Mr Innes-Brown : I will try to answer that. At this stage, I am not sure that we would share that assessment of an imminent prospect of conflict between coalition forces and Russian and Syrian forces. Allied aviation is not actually operating in Aleppo or around Aleppo. It is only focused on Daesh targets. There is always a prospect of miscalculation, but there is a communication channel between the United States and the Russians about who flies where. Defence could give you more detail on that. In terms of the overall situation around Aleppo, the situation has deteriorated significantly in recent weeks. There has been a large number of civilians killed. As we speak, the Russians have announced a brief pause in operations there supposedly to allow humanitarian assistance in. I think the window they have given is about eight hours.

Senator WHISH-WILSON: Eight hours, yes.

Mr Innes-Brown : It is not a very long period of time. There had been earlier an agreement on 9 September for a complete nationwide cessation of hostilities. A break for eight hours is not enough and it needs to be enduring. Australia participates in a humanitarian taskforce that meets in Geneva every week. It sits under the international support group for Syria. There is a separate taskforce on the cease-fire sitting under that group. We and others continue to urge for a restoration of that cessation of hostilities so it can end the suffering for people and provide a space for some political negotiations.

Senator WHISH-WILSON: My last two questions are about the peace process, if you can call it that. I know there are attempts at peace. Are you confident that there is still enough goodwill within the international community to continue them?

Mr Innes-Brown : The situation does indeed look very grim. The events around Aleppo came as foreign ministers were meeting in New York in September. They seemed to cut completely across international efforts to find a solution to the crisis. So I do not think people have given up. We cannot give up. Certainly I have seen that Secretary Kerry and others have been very vigorous in pursuing this without much to work with, frankly, from the other side. My personal assessment is that at this stage there seems little indication that the Assad regime is willing to sit down and have a sensible and serious political negotiation. But we have to keep chipping away.

Senator WHISH-WILSON: My last question relates probably to that final point and my earlier question about potential flashpoints for conflict. It has been reported that the US was prepared to take quite strong measures against the Russian military around, I suppose, accusations of targeting medical facilities and other atrocities and that they may stop talking to them. That was one thing that was commented on. I am not sure what other issues are being explored in terms of putting pressure on the Russians themselves and the Assad regime. Can you comment on that? Obviously, we are allies with the US, so this is something that is of significant concern to us as well.

Mr Innes-Brown : At this stage, the only options that are being seriously explored are a continuation of political options—negotiations, trying to reinstate some sort of cease-fire, what to do about Jabhatal-Nusra. Their presence in eastern Aleppo has been a vexatious issue, a complicating issue. The effort is very much in the diplomatic track.

Senator WHISH-WILSON: This is my very last question. You said that these attacks on hospitals are designed to terrorise the population. Does that mean you would classify the combatants who are doing this as terrorists?

Mr Innes-Brown : We would have to look at each individual case and who they are. Hypothetically, I cannot give you an answer. You would have to look at the specifics. There are certain groups that are designated as terrorist, including in the UN, and others that are not.

Senator WHISH-WILSON: That is very subjective.

Mr Innes-Brown : Yes. And the definition of who is a terrorist and who is not is obviously one of the key points of contention between the Russians and the regime and other members of the international community. So it is a very loaded issue.

Senator WHISH-WILSON: And it was a loaded question.

CHAIR: I will return to you now, Senator Wong.

Senator WONG: Thank you. I was going to come to these issues later today but, given that you are at the table, you are answering a lot of questions today, Mr Innes-Brown. That was me being nice. Do I have to wave a flag or something?

Senator Fierravanti-Wells: If you did it more, we would recognise it.

Mr Innes-Brown : It does not surprise me.

Senator WONG: I want to ask a couple more questions about this.

Mr Innes-Brown : Sure.

Senator WONG: The Prime Minister in the House made, I think, this very appropriate point:

… taking back Mosul and the destruction of Daesh’s so-called Caliphate is a military and strategic imperative. But let me be very clear: it will not mark the end of this conflict. There will be a need to establish order and maintain stability—tasks which could be even more difficult and protracted than the recapture of the city.

I know this is not an easy question. What is the thinking? What is the diplomatic activity and the strategic planning for that challenge, which is what happens, as the Prime Minister says, after the taking back of Mosul and the destruction of the caliphate which, as he correctly assesses, is in many ways a more protracted task?

Mr Innes-Brown : Sure. I will talk about the complexity of Mosul. Iraq, as you know, has been beset by numerous sectarian and other problems. There are centrifugal forces, including the desire of the Kurds to go their own way, or at least some of the Kurds wishing for independence. There are Shia-Sunni sectarian issues. There are Baghdad Kurdish regional government tensions over resources and territory. There is the question of ethnic minorities in that area as well. There are also various political players in Iraq who are competing in this space. So in many ways, Mimosa was a microcosm for a lot of these issues which have been bedevilling Iraq in recent years, where the rubber is going to hit the road in some respect. There has been a lot of encouragement for Iraqi parties to the conflict to get organisation. I am talking not just about the military but also the political and governance arrangements. The question is who runs Mosul and how are various community interests taken into account and so forth. There are other issues about particular groups. Are the Shia militia, the population mobilisation front, going to go into Mosul itself, which is now largely a Sunni city, with the displacement of others and so forth? So there are a lot of points there.

Certainly Australia and the coalition will broadly have been encouraging them to come up with a plan and to agree on those arrangements so that these are not contested issues after Daesh is forced out of the city. It is fair to say that some of the arrangements are not locked in. It is still unclear to me what the political arrangements are for running Mosul afterwards. I do not think there is an agreement on that. I think there is an agreement that key Iraqi stakeholders, including the Kurdish regional government and the Baghdad government, will talk about that after the event. So there are some uncertainties. There is also the potential for significant humanitarian displacement. That is something that various UN agencies and the Iraqi government and coalition partners have been talking about for some time and are encouraging those preparations to be made.

So I think there are some significant issues. It is difficult to predict how it will play out. Certainly it is a very complex operation not only militarily but politically.

Senator WONG: Sure. Is there genuine and substantial progress on the counter-ISIL coalition's plan for restoring stability to the region post this?

Mr Innes-Brown : Well, I think there has been significant progress. Towns have been retaken. Towns and cities have been taken. Stabilisation forces have been trained and so forth. It is very much a work in progress. That will have to happen also in Mosul afterwards.

Senator WONG: Just in terms of the locus of these discussions, is that primarily the foreign and defence ministers meeting of the counter-ISIL coalition, or is it through the auspices of the UN? Where is the primary driver of these difficult discussions?

Mr Innes-Brown : A lot of it has been happening in Iraq at various levels between representatives of the Iraqi government and the Kurdish government. The US special presidential envoy for the counter-ISIL coalition has played a significant role in trying to get facilitating agreement on these important challenges. He has visited a number of times. His deputy spent almost four weeks in Iraq recently talking to various players to try to build consensus on agreement on how Mosul is going to work to ensure that the relevant resources are devoted to it. Our embassy and ambassadors in Baghdad have been messaging the Iraqi government about the importance of doing these things. It has come up in other meetings. It is obviously something that is being discussed amongst the coalition. I was in a meeting a couple of weeks ago where these issues are very much being raised by the coalition partners.

Senator WONG: Which comes to my next question: where is this discussion? Who is leading Australia's engagement on this aspect of the discussion? Is it DFAT?

Mr Innes-Brown : Well, the foreign minister and defence minister are in there. There is a coalition process.

Senator WONG: I asked you about that and you said that a lot of the discussions are occurring in Iraq. As I understand it, you have this ministerial level group.

Mr Innes-Brown : There are several ministerial level groups.

Senator WONG: Sure. Are we engaged or not? I am not making any judgement about it. I am just trying to get some sense of—

Mr Innes-Brown : Well, we are at different levels.

Senator WONG: Let me finish the question.

Mr Innes-Brown : Sorry.

Senator WONG: If I can finish the question.

Mr Innes-Brown : Sure.

Senator WONG: I am referencing your answer that many of the discussions are occurring in Iraq. Are we engaged in those at all? If so, is that the post? Is there another process by which the government is engaging?

Mr Innes-Brown : Sure. Well, it is happening at different levels. In Baghdad, it is happening. Our ambassador or the charge has been over many months involved in discussions on these issues, including with coalition partners. We have had senior officials visit. For instance, deputy secretary Wells was there a few weeks ago and had a range of meetings with Iraqi and coalition stakeholders. So that is the action in Iraq. There are also coalition fora. The foreign minister has been involved in meetings on that, including in July, when Senator Payne was there. There was a joint defence and foreign ministers meeting. There is a defence ministers meeting coming up very shortly in Europe; I think it is next week. Those issues will also be discussed at that time.

Senator WONG: When was that? Next week?

Mr Innes-Brown : Yes. There is a coalition defence ministers meeting.

Senator WONG: Ministerial?

Mr Innes-Brown : Yes.

Senator WONG: Thank you for that. I would like to ask some questions about the sequence of discussions in which the department was involved with the Secretary-General position of the United Nations. Is DFAT aware of meetings between the foreign minister and Mr Rudd in relation to the UN Secretary-General position? If so, are you able to provide me with the dates of those meetings?

Mr McDonald : No. I am not aware of those meetings. I can take on notice to check within the department, but we are not aware, no.

Senator WONG: Did anyone from the department attend any of these meetings?

Mr McDonald : Well, not to my knowledge, no. We are happy to take it on notice and check.

Senator WONG: Yes. I would like you to. You have given me a long list in the previous session of times when Mr Rudd's travel was facilitated. For example, Ms Bishop held talks with Mr Rudd on the margins of the UN General Assembly in 2015. Is that correct?

Mr McDonald : Again, I cannot say yes that did occur. I am happy to follow up and take that on notice.

Senator WONG: It is not like this matter has not been the subject of some discussion. Are you really telling me DFAT cannot provide me with any information about what you know as a department about meetings?

Mr McDonald : I certainly can in relation to meetings that the department is aware of. You have asked about one in 2015.

Senator WONG: Tell me what you are aware of.

Mr McDonald : I can certainly run through that.

Senator WONG: Yes. Let us do that.

Mr McDonald : Okay. In relation to Mr Rudd's request to be nominated as a candidate for the UN—

Senator WONG: Sorry, but could you speak up a little?

Mr McDonald : Sorry. I will move the microphone a bit closer. In relation to Mr Rudd's letter to the Prime Minister requesting to be nominated as a candidate, I am aware of that letter dated 4 April. I became aware of that letter on 5 April.

Senator WONG: Are you telling me nobody from DFAT was aware of any meetings in which Mr Rudd was involved with the foreign minister prior to that letter? I just find that really quite hard to believe.

Mr McDonald : Senator, I certainly was not in attendance at any of them and I do not know—

Senator WONG: Well, I am asking this at estimates. There is a whole department behind you. I am not just asking you. Somebody is here.

Ms Adamson : Could I just say that, as I am sure you are aware, it is not unusual for foreign ministers and former foreign ministers to meet at the margins of meetings and have discussions about a whole range of issues.

Senator WONG: Sure.

Ms Adamson : It is not necessarily the case that our DFAT colleagues will be there in the course of these conversations.

Senator WONG: Which is why I asked the question about which ones you were there for.

Ms Adamson : Mr McDonald is telling you about the meetings that we are aware of.

Senator WONG: No. He is telling me what he is aware of. He has been careful to say that. Is somebody else in the department aware of any other meetings?

Dr Strahan : I can add that I am the relevant division head. I cover the UN. I was involved in no such meetings and not aware of them. They were not drawn to my attention, and I was not involved.

Senator WONG: Were you aware of any meetings Mr Rudd was having with the UN mission?

Mr McDonald : I am aware of a meeting that Mr Rudd had with the head of mission in the UN mission in May this year. I think it was 9 or 10 May.

Senator WONG: In 2016?

Mr McDonald : In 2016, yes, sorry.

Senator WONG: There was quite a bit of assistance provided to Mr Rudd over this last year. Was the department in receipt of any indication from Minister Bishop about assistance to Mr Rudd for his visits to various countries for the purpose of discussing the UNSG candidature?

Mr McDonald : I am not aware of that. I am aware of reports he attended different meetings across the globe. Some of them were about his responsibilities within the UN. I am not sure how many of those the department helped facilitate.

Dr Strahan : I will add that Mr Rudd travelled principally as the head of the multilateralism commission, which he was chairing in New York. He used those visits to promote that report. Our posts were not involved in those meetings. He conducted those meetings himself.

Senator WONG: It has been publicly reported that DFAT prepared a cabinet submission in relation to this matter. When did this matter first go to cabinet?

Mr McDonald : In relation to that date, I would have to take that on notice.

Senator WONG: Oh, come on! Seriously.

Mr McDonald : We do not usually provide the date that that necessarily goes to cabinet.

Senator WONG: Sorry, it is not true because I have given dates before and I have received dates before. First, that is not correct. Second, how can you possibly not know? You are a very experienced public servant. This is a very high-quality department. I am sure you have had briefings on how much this has been in the media. I am just asking the date when it went to cabinet.

Mr McDonald : I think this question was asked earlier this week as well and Senator Brandis put that question on notice.

Senator WONG: Well, I am asking you. That is a different answer. You are entitled to give that answer, but that is a different answer. You are taking it on notice?

Mr McDonald : So I may need to take it on notice, yes.

Senator WONG: Did the foreign minister advise Mr Rudd that she had agreed with the Prime Minister—this is in May—that the government would consider the Secretary-General issue after the election?

Mr McDonald : I do not have any knowledge of that. You would have to ask the Prime Minister.

Senator WONG: To you, Minister?

Senator Fierravanti-Wells: I will take that on notice.

Senator WONG: Sure. You will probably want to do this one too. Did the foreign minister tell Mr Rudd in early May she would authorise DFAT and Australia's mission to the UN to take soundings from other missions about Mr Rudd's candidature?

Senator Fierravanti-Wells: I will take that on notice.

Senator WONG: I ask the secretary: was there any such authorisation to DFAT and Australia's mission to the UN?

Ms Adamson : Mr McDonald can answer that question.

Mr McDonald : Yes. In terms of the UN mission, the former secretary of the department asked the head of mission in UN New York to undertake soundings in relation to the prospects of a Rudd candidature to inform the briefing we would provide to an incoming government for its cabinet deliberations.

Senator WONG: Okay. So when did Mr Varghese do that?

Mr McDonald : I will say 10 May 2016, and I will check that date for you.

Senator WONG: Okay. What led Mr Varghese to do that? Was that at the minister's request?

Mr McDonald : I do not know. I was only informed by Mr Varghese that he had authorised that. I do not know. I do know he had a discussion with Mr Rudd, but I do not know why he authorised that.

Senator WONG: Were there regular meetings between Mr Rudd and Australia's permanent representative in New York?

Mr McDonald : I am aware of two. I can check, but I am aware of two. As I say, there were no discussions before that week of 10 May 2016 that I am talking about.

Senator WONG: But on 10 May the authorisation is provided.

Mr McDonald : Yes.

Senator WONG: Which is consistent with what Mr Rudd has said publicly. Did the foreign minister authorise DFAT to have embassies facilitate introductions in international capitals for Mr Rudd?

Mr McDonald : Not to my knowledge. I am happy to take that on notice and check. Certainly the undertakings as provided to me by the previous secretary were for us to take soundings, as I mentioned earlier.

Senator WONG: Take soundings prior to the election?

Mr McDonald : No. So the discussion—

Senator WONG: Prior to the Australian election?

Mr McDonald : I will try to explain that. As we were moving into a caretaker arrangement, part of the discussion between Mr Rudd and Mr Varghese was around what the department would be doing during the caretaker period. And that provided the opportunity for Mr Varghese to explain, as I said earlier, that we would be taking soundings in order to inform the briefing to an incoming government as part of its cabinet deliberations.

Senator WONG: Well, that is the first time you have mentioned Mr Rudd and Mr Varghese having a conversation.

Mr McDonald : No. I mentioned earlier—

Senator WONG: Sorry. I misheard you.

Mr McDonald : Sorry, no. I mentioned that earlier. On 10 May. I was going to check the date, but 10 May.

Senator WONG: Sorry. I misunderstood. I thought the 10 May date is the date in which Mr Varghese tells the UN mission.

Mr McDonald : It is both.

Senator WONG: It is both. So they have a meeting. Mr Rudd and Mr Varghese have a meeting here in Canberra?

Mr McDonald : No. I did not say it was a meeting. A discussion. I do not know if it was a phone discussion. I am only going off—

Senator WONG: Was the minister's office aware of that discussion?

Mr McDonald : I do not know. I did not have the discussion.

Senator WONG: Hang on. When I ask you questions, I am asking you as a departmental officer: was the minister's office advised by the department of the discussion the secretary had with the former Prime Minister about his candidature for the Secretary-General position?

Mr McDonald : I would have to take that on notice. I am certainly not aware of it.

Senator WONG: Was there any discussion, or communication of which DFAT was aware, between Mr Varghese and the minister's office about that instruction?

Mr McDonald : I am not aware of it.

Senator WONG: It would be unlikely, would it not, for the secretary of the department to instruct the head of mission in New York to take soundings on a candidature without the foreign minister's knowledge?

Mr McDonald : I would say yes. My answer would be yes. I can only work on the information that was provided to me. I would like to check whether that information also went to the foreign minister's office as well and I can then answer that question.

Senator WONG: Thank you. And a range of other questions you have taken on notice.

Mr McDonald : Yes.

Senator WONG: You will probably want to take these on notice. Was a cabinet submission considered on 28 July 2016?

Mr McDonald : I will take that on notice.

Senator WONG: I would like to point out that the Prime Minister actually announced it on 29 July 2016 following a discussion in cabinet, so it is probably not, you know, super secret. Can you confirm the cabinet submission contained a recommendation that the government nominate Mr Rudd?

Mr McDonald : I cannot confirm that. I would like to take it on notice, please.

Senator WONG: Sure. Did DFAT undertake any assessment of Mr Rudd's qualification for this position?

Mr McDonald : Again, I will take that on notice. As I said earlier, we took soundings to inform our advice.

Senator WONG: And what was the advice as a result of those soundings from the permanent representative to the UN?

Mr McDonald : I will have to take that on notice. It was part of the cabinet deliberations I talked about earlier.

Senator WONG: I am not asking which of the soundings went into the cabinet process. I am asking what the soundings were.

Mr McDonald : I will take that on notice.

Senator WONG: Of course. Did Mr Hockey provide any indication of his position on Mr Rudd's nomination?

Mr McDonald : I am aware of correspondence from Mr Hockey to the foreign minister.

Senator WONG: What did Mr Hockey write to the Prime Minister?

Mr McDonald : That is not a letter that was addressed to me. It was a letter addressed to the foreign minister. I am aware of it.

Senator WONG: He is an ambassador. He is not writing as Joe Hockey—you know, good bloke.

Mr McDonald : It is a letter to the foreign minister. I am aware of that letter, but I do not believe that I am in a position to divulge the contents of that letter. I am happy to take that on notice.

Senator WONG: Does the department have a copy of the letter?

Mr McDonald : The department has a copy of the letter.

Senator WONG: Thank you. I am asking for a copy of the letter.

Mr McDonald : I am happy to take that on notice.

Senator FAWCETT: Can I ask a question on this same line?

Senator WONG: I am nearly finished. Do you want jump in?

Senator FAWCETT: Just on this. Did the previous ambassador to the US, who would have been there through much of the period we are discussing, provide advice to the foreign minister or the Prime Minister?

Mr McDonald : I will have to take that on notice. I cannot answer that question.

Senator FAWCETT: Did he make a public comment about the viability of that?

Senator WONG: Who?

Senator FAWCETT: The previous ambassador.

Senator WONG: Mr Beazley?

Senator FAWCETT: Did he make public comments about his view of the viability of Mr Rudd?

Mr McDonald : I am aware of public comments, yes.

Senator FAWCETT: And what was that public comment?

Mr McDonald : I cannot recall exactly what they were. But there was public comment reported in the press in relation to that.

Senator FAWCETT: So the previous ambassador, according to the press, said that the candidature was nonviable. So would it be a reasonable assumption that if he were prepared to make that public comment, any confidential advice to the government would probably be consistent with that?

Senator WONG: I am asking the questions. Good try.

Mr McDonald : I have taken that question on notice. I would prefer to leave it on notice.

CHAIR: Senator Wong, I will go back to you. When you finish this line, I will go to Senator Fawcett and then Senator Rice.

Senator WONG: Briefly, did Mr Minchin, Australia's Consul-General in New York, provide a view as to Mr Rudd's nomination?

Mr McDonald : He did not provide a written view that I have seen.

Senator WONG: Did he communicate a view that has been reported to you?

Mr McDonald : There is a view that is reported in the letter from Mr Hockey, but there is no view that I have seen from Mr Minchin himself.

Senator WONG: Both supportive of the nomination?

Mr McDonald : In terms of the content of that letter, I have taken that on notice.

Senator WONG: And what about the high commissioner to the United Kingdom? Did he put forward any views to the government about Mr Rudd's nomination?

Mr McDonald : I will need to take that on notice.

Senator WONG: While we are on the high commissioner for the United Kingdom, when does that posting end?

Ms Adamson : At least three years of High Commissioner Downer's posting will be up in April next year, as I recall. I will ask Mr Fisher to confirm that. That is my understanding. If you can just wait a minute, I can confirm it for you. Sorry, in May next year.

Senator WONG: Have there been any conversations with the secretary or any other officer of DFAT about the possibility of Senator Brandis replacing Mr Rudd?

CHAIR: That is asking for an opinion.

Senator WONG: No, it is not. It is asking whether there were conversations. That is a fact.

Ms Adamson : Senator, I can say that I am regularly in touch with all of our current heads of mission about the likely duration of their postings. It is naturally enough a matter of keen interest to them, so I have had conversations, even in the eight weeks that I have been secretary, with a range of our heads of mission. The matter that you have just raised has not been raised with me.

Senator WONG: Mr Downer is reported in the press as being very exercised by that rumour. Has his exercised state of mind been communicated to you or any other DFAT officer?

Ms Adamson : No. It has not. Mr Downer is normally of a reasonably relaxed nature. It is rare indeed for him to be exercised about any matter at all, I think, at the level you are mentioning.

CHAIR: Thank you, Senator Wong. I will ask you to pause there.

Senator FAWCETT: Speaking of being exercised, I think Dr Strahan is probably the person I need to speak to regarding UNESCO. Does that come within your bailiwick?

Dr Strahan : Yes, it does.

Senator FAWCETT: Clearly, Australia has been involved in UNESCO. We have been on the executive board in the past. We currently have people working with them. I believe we have a commission here in Australia. I am interested to understand the department's view towards the resolution that was passed last Tuesday about Jerusalem and particularly the wording, which essentially excluded any cultural, heritage or historical links from both the Jewish and, I understand, Christian heritages and linked it purely to one group. Does DFAT have a view on that? Has anything been expressed to UNESCO or the United Nations more broadly?

Dr Strahan : Thank you for that question. As you know, Australia is very committed to UNESCO. We are not currently, however, on the executive board. It was the executive board which considered this resolution. Although we are not on the board, we made our opinion known to members of the board, and we urged them not to proceed along these lines. We thought the kind of language which was being used in the resolution lacked balance and politicised the issue. This is in fact a running issue in UNESCO. These sort of resolutions are generally considered in two contexts. One is in the executive board, which is a smaller subset of the total UNESCO membership. Second is in the general conference of UNESCO, of which we are a member. The conference met last year. A different process, frankly, there takes over.

We and other like-minded countries work very assiduously to make sure that any resolution which proceeds on these cultural heritage sites, including these religious sites, avoids these sorts of problems. So those resolutions are adopted by consensus. The United States is not currently a member of UNESCO because Palestine is recognised as a member under the name Palestine. But the United States is still heavily involved in that process and the general conference. So we all achieved a good outcome there. We were disappointed that the executive board, however, came up with a type of language which is unhelpful. The head of UNESCO, Irina Bokova, has encouraged all members of UNESCO not to proceed down those lines again and to avoid this kind of divisive language. So our position has been consistent and very clear.

Senator FAWCETT: When you say the head, that is the Director-General of UNESCO?

Dr Strahan : Yes.

Senator FAWCETT: Their charter is to contribute to peace and security by promoting international collaboration. I accept and welcome the fact that you have protested that. Is there any further action in the general assembly of UNESCO as opposed to the executive board, which, as you say, we are no longer a member of, that can be taken to make it clear that the international community considers that this rewriting of history is very unhelpful in the context of a situation that, as you rightly point out, is occupying a lot of people's minds and has done for decades and this kind of very unilateral approach is not going to assist in bringing a resolution about?

Dr Strahan : All international organisations, unfortunately, perhaps in one sense, are composed of member states. That means all of us. So all nation states bring to those organisations their different points of view. The UN has the same problem. The Commonwealth as well. So in the end these entities are defined by their members. If the members of the organisations put forward particular points of view which are pernicious or weighted one way or the other, the organisation itself does not have a power to stop that. As I mentioned, Ms Bokova—she is the head of the organisation, but she is an international public servant—is urging the member states to take a different and constructive approach.

So what I could say to you is that, going forward, we will continue to work with like-minded countries to urge all other members of UNESCO to take a non-political approach. However, I have to say that, like the UN, there were some strong differences in UNESCO. Although it is in some senses a technical body, it does have political issues transported into it. When you have that kind of political debate, unfortunately, more entrenched political positions come to the fore. I think Australia is one country here that is trying to take the heat out of the issue. We have like-minded countries who work with us. We would hope, leading up to the next general conference, we can continue, at least at the conference level, to get these non-troubling consensus motions. With the executive board we will continue to urge the members of the board to take a non-political approach to this issue. I cannot say that we will necessarily be successful in that effort, but we will not give up.

Senator FAWCETT: I appreciate the approach and the efforts to bring that balance. Could you just explain to the committee, then, in practical terms the impact of a resolution such as the one that has just been passed? Does that bind member states to any particular course of action or priority for funding? Is there a practical impact of a resolution such as that?

Dr Strahan : Frankly, I have to take on notice the practical implications of this particular resolution. I do not know in enough detail to know what kind of an impact it has. Many of the resolutions that are passed in these international organisations, of course, are more about putting down general statements and trying to reinforce particular norms and positions. I am not sure if this resolution was linked to practical outcomes. I do not think it was, but I will double-check that and make sure that we give you an answer.

Senator FAWCETT: Sure. My concern is obviously putting taxpayers' funding into an organisation and then finding that our freedom to make sure that funding is used for purposes or within a context that we support is limited by a resolution like this. I would be disturbed and looking for ways to avoid that situation. But my other concern is that where you have strongly held views by various advocacy groups, they will then start taking the public platform, arguing that a UN body, which by implication means the majority of the world view, supports what has been stated. We hear arguments sometimes in the Senate. Sometimes we hear them in public or written in papers. Left unchallenged, they provide, I think, an artificial moral authority to the arguments of people who may be at one extreme, when there are other valid views, into an argument. So take on notice the practical impact. If there is some way beyond just the transcript of this estimates hearing to identify the fact that Australia does not support, and in fact many nations do not support, that resolution, I think that would be useful in terms of the ongoing debate in our own nation so that people who support that particular view cannot claim that as a platform that says they have the globe's support behind them.

Dr Strahan : I think, as you would know, all issues relating to Palestine and these international organisations tend to be particularly emotional and divisive. There are very strong opinions on both sides of that debate that, frankly, are not going to go away. What I would hope is that everyone here would realise that UNESCO is a very broad body and actually touches on many different policy areas. A lot of its work is actually very credible and non-political and constructive. We, for instance, have a very big chunk of work in the education space which relates to the recognition of education qualifications. It is a very positive process. But at times, yes, UNESCO does become embroiled, although it is a technical body, in some more political issues.

Senator FAWCETT: Sure. And hence my call for us not to withdraw or anything else. It does do a lot of valuable work. We need to be very clear in the public space where there is something put forward by a small group of nations. Look at the number who abstained from the vote. Clearly they cannot claim the majority of the executive board. I think it is important that it is on the public record as to Australia's view on the validity of that resolution.

Dr Strahan : Perhaps I could take this opportunity to follow up on a question asked by Senator Rice about the Habitat III conference. Our permanent representative, Gillian Bird, delivered our national statement yesterday. All of the Australian participants from state, local governments, academics and civil society groups were extremely complimentary and were very empowered by that statement. Indeed, the principal NGO group was going to make a couple of critical comments about Australia at a national level. They deleted these paragraphs because they were so pleased with this intervention by Ms Bird. So I think we did manage to get our strong message across nonetheless.

Senator FAWCETT: Well done.

CHAIR: Thanks, Senator Fawcett. That is a good lead-in, Senator Rice.

Senator RICE: Certainly the communication I had was great disappointment that there was not an official national delegation at either a ministerial or even a departmental level. That is what was expressed to me. My question now is regarding organ harvesting in China. It has been documented by investigative reporters since 1994. There is evidence of Falun Gong practitioners and, to a lesser extent, Christians and Tibetans being systematically targeted in large internment and alleged harvesting camps. We know that China currently has two and a half million political prisoners detained. The latest 680-page investigation report on organ harvesting indicates that the 169 approved transplant hospitals could have conducted 60,000 to 100,000 organ transplants per year since 2001. Does the department have an official position on the issue of organ harvesting from prisoners of conscience in China?

Mr Fletcher : Yes, we do. We have strong concerns and we are opposed to it.

Senator RICE: What is the government's planned response from here, given that there is that opposition?

Mr Fletcher : Well, it is one of the issues we take up with China whenever we discuss human rights with them.

Senator RICE: And you are aware of the very highly credible recent report that has come out?

Mr Fletcher : I am aware of the reports, but I do have doubts about their credibility.

Senator RICE: This is a very highly credible report. It was an update of the previous report. This report is called Bloody harvest. It was released in June this year. It was widely covered in the Australian and international media. The US Congressional-Executive Commission on China investigated this report, which resulted in resolution 343 being passed unanimously in June 2016 calling for an immediate end to the practice of organ harvesting from all prisoners of conscience. So what is your response to this? Do you think that the Australian parliament should make a similar resolution?

Mr Fletcher : Frankly, I think the issue is a little confused. There were allegations of organ harvesting in China made by Falun Gong quite some years ago. They are not given credence by serious human rights activists. The second issue, which is the use of organs for transplants from condemned prisoners, is of concern. We have taken it up with China. Last year, they announced that they would no longer use organs from executed prisoners for transplants. We think that that is a good move.

Senator RICE: Has the department taken up the issue formally with China?

Mr Fletcher : Yes. The last occasion I am aware of was the human rights dialogue in 2014.

Senator RICE: I reject that serious human rights advocates do not take this issue seriously because I know many that do. Will the department undertake to investigate the findings of this report?

Mr Fletcher : I need to clarify what I said. I said the allegations made by Falun Gong dating back about 10 years ago are not accepted by people like Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International as being credible. The American embassy attempted to verify them and found, as far as they could tell, there was no truth to them. Falun Gong was saying that there was a hospital in northern China where they had people lined up waiting for execution and they were going to use their organs.

Senator RICE: I think that is an overstatement of the level. I know that it is very difficult to get information out of China given the lack of independent human rights observers that are allowed in. Anyway, we have a 680-page completely updated, very highly credible report that has resulted in a US Congress resolution. Will the department investigate the findings that are outlined in this report?

Ms Adamson : I will perhaps add that the department has really no capacity to be able to conduct independent investigations in China on any matter.

Senator RICE: Will it take on reviewing the findings that are outlined in this report that has been released this year?

Mr Fletcher : We will look at the report.

Senator RICE: Thank you. Scott Ludlam recently confirmed via a question on notice to the minister for health that 53 Australians received organ transplants in China from 2001 to 2014. This is likely to be an undercount as there is no formal register. What is your confidence that these organs received by Australians were from voluntary donors?

Mr Fletcher : China has said that it will no longer use organs from prisoners. We have no way of confirming that that has entirely been carried out or has not been carried out.

Senator RICE: Will you request of China the need to have independent human rights observers to be able to investigate these accusations?

Mr Fletcher : Well, that is the general point we have made to China—that it needs to allow the international community to satisfy itself about conditions in China.

Senator RICE: And what response have you received from China?

Mr Fletcher : China has, to some degree, allowed UN rapporteurs into China. But beyond the UN and not very often, they do not allow other outside bodies to investigate circumstances in the country.

Senator RICE: So are you satisfied, then, that this is an acceptable position that China is taking?

Mr Fletcher : Well, I think we recognise that until China changes its mind on that subject, it will probably maintain its position.

Senator RICE: Do you think there is anything more that Australia can do to address this issue, given the ongoing concerns and, as I say, the recently collaborated evidence—

Senator Fierravanti-Wells: Sorry, I do not want to interrupt, but you are asking the officials to give an opinion. The officials have already, I think, taken it as far as they can. They have said they would have a look at the report. But you are asking for—

Senator RICE: It was not an opinion. I was asking whether there are any further actions that could—

Senator Fierravanti-Wells: Senator Rice, I heard you ask, 'Do you think'. In my view, that is asking for an opinion. So perhaps if you could read—

Senator RICE: Thank you, Minister. I will rephrase the question. Mr Fletcher, are there any other actions that Australia could be taking to address this issue so that we have confidence that particularly Australian people who are receiving organ donations are receiving those donations from voluntary donors?

Mr Fletcher : This is something that we will take up with China when we discuss human rights issues.

Senator RICE: Thank you.

CHAIR: Thank you, Senator Rice. Back to you, Senator Wong.

Senator Fierravanti-Wells: Senator Back, before Senator Wong starts, I want to ask: are we still in general corporate?

CHAIR: We are, Minister.

Senator Fierravanti-Wells: And we are not going to be following particularly the—

CHAIR: Well, broadly.

Senator Fierravanti-Wells: All right.

Senator WONG: Totally flexible approach.

Senator Fierravanti-Wells: We are being very flexible.

CHAIR: We are quite confident that at six o'clock we will go to trade.

Senator WONG: This is outcome 1, Timor Sea. I have a question first about the decision by the conciliation commission of the Permanent Court of Arbitration on 26 September. Following it, a joint press release was issued by Ms Bishop and Senator Brandis in which the following statement was made:

Australia accepts the commission's decision and will continue to engage in good faith as we move to the next phase of conciliation process.

Can I be clear as to what, if anything, that indicates about the Australian government's position on the jurisdictional challenge?

Mr Bliss : Well, that statement stated that we accept the decision of the conciliation commission on the question of competence or jurisdiction. We will therefore engage in good faith in the substantive matter of which the conciliation commission is seized.

Senator WONG: Will the Australian government continue or not continue to pursue the jurisdictional point?

Mr Bliss : No. That is being decided by the conciliation commission.

Senator WONG: As I understand it, the role of the commission is to seek to assist the parties to reach a settlement. Whether or not a settlement is reached, the commission can then produce a report. Is that right?

Mr Bliss : That is right.

Senator WONG: It is not legally binding?

Mr Bliss : That is right.

Senator WONG: Has Australia given any indication whether or not it will accept the commission's report?

Mr Bliss : No. We will participate in good faith in that process.

Senator WONG: But if there is no resolution, we have not confirmed that we would accept a report of the commission?

Mr Bliss : No. We have not.

Senator WONG: It is a good thing George Brandis is not here. He would be telling me how to ask these questions. Do I understand in layperson's terms that that means we reserve the right not to accept any recommendation of the commission?

Mr Bliss : It is not for me to provide legal advice to the committee. What I can say is that the Convention on the Law of the Sea article 298 makes clear exactly what follows from a decision by a conciliation commission of this sort.

Senator WONG: Yes. I understand that. We are saying that we will participate but we are not going to give a commitment to accept any recommendations of the commission at the conclusion of the process.

Mr Bliss : I will go back to my previous answer.

Senator WONG: I do not understand the previous answer, then.

Senator Fierravanti-Wells: I think, Senator Wong, if I understood it, the official has said that we have not yet confirmed our position. That was the gist of what you—

Mr Bliss : The Convention on the Law of the Sea—

Senator WONG: Yes. I understand the jurisdictional point, okay.

Mr Bliss : But also on the substantive point, once that commission concludes its work, it will come out with a report with recommendations. The provisions of article 298 of the convention then set out what the response by the two states participating in that conciliation should be. I do fear that I am vying into legal advice to the committee.

Senator WONG: All I am asking is whether or not we have indicated a position and whether we will accept the recommendations in that report.

Mr Bliss : No. We have not.

Senator WONG: So, in other words, we are keeping our options open?

Mr Bliss : We will.

Senator WONG: Given that, the path to a resolution of this is not clear because we have not indicated that we would abide by a recommendation that essentially might bring it to its conclusion?

Senator Fierravanti-Wells: I will just intervene. I think the officials have taken it as far as they can. We have a process. I think it is appropriate for us to await the outcome of that process. Then we will make decisions accordingly. So I really think that that is probably as far as we can take the matter.

Senator WONG: As I understand it, the government has excluded arbitration and, on the basis of today's evidence, will not be bound by the outcome of the conciliation in accordance with provisions of UNCLOS. Can someone explain to me why that is a reasonable position?

Ms Adamson : As Mr Bliss said, we are engaged in a conciliation regarding maritime boundaries at the moment. We consider that the conciliation commission's recent meetings held in Singapore were constructive. We are engaging in this process in good faith, reflecting our support for the rules based international order. I think it would not be sensible to engage in hypotheticals about what the government would or would not do depending on the outcome of a process that is in an early stage and which we have entered into in good faith.

Senator WONG: Well, you reference the rules based international order, and I agree. What I find difficult to understand is how an exclusion of arbitration—saying that we are not going to accept arbitration and we will not be bound by the outcome of the conciliation—is a demonstration of our acceptance of the rules based order.

CHAIR: We will take that as a comment, Senator Wong.

Senator WONG: She may wish to respond. She should probably say, 'Well, I disagree' or something.

Ms Adamson : Well, I was going to say, Senator Wong, we have genuinely entered into this in good faith. There is a part of the international rules based order that relies on good faith, and we are demonstrating that good faith.

Senator WONG: I might come back to this.

CHAIR: Of course. Thanks, Senator Wong.

Senator ABETZ: Thank you very much. I will return to the issue of organ harvesting in China that was referred to by my colleague Senator Rice. Can I have it cleared up? Do we acknowledge that this ugly practice of organ harvesting has occurred from nonconsenting people in China?

Mr Fletcher : I am not certain that that is true. China had used organs from prisoners who were executed. It said that those prisoners had consented to their organs being used. You could be sceptical about whether in fact they did consent.

Senator ABETZ: So we have no independent sources that indicate that that might be occurring on a large scale?

Mr Fletcher : That is correct.

Senator ABETZ: But nor do we have any independent sources denying or being able to show that that does not occur?

Mr Fletcher : That is correct.

Senator ABETZ: So there is a dearth of evidence here. Would that be a fair summation?

Mr Fletcher : Well, I think there is a logical problem in the original accusations, which were that the abuse of Falun Gong prisoners was so bad that they were being lined up for execution and use of their organs. Falun Gong is mistreated in China as an entity. That mistreatment has resulted in deaths in custody. But Falun Gong itself is not a capital offence. People are not executed for being Falun Gong followers, as far as we know. It is not one of the crimes that is listed in the—

Senator ABETZ: We are told that about Christians as well in China. I think there might be evidence to the contrary. Would you agree with that proposition?

Mr Fletcher : Not at the moment, no.

Ms Adamson : Neither would I.

Senator ABETZ: So Christians have not been—

Mr Fletcher : No. Christians are not being executed in China for being Christians.

Senator ABETZ: I am glad that is on the Hansard record. I trust that the minister and others may be not necessarily of that view. Has the department always been of that view? Are you saying that no Christian has been killed in China because of their Christian—

Mr Fletcher : I said at the moment.

Senator ABETZ: At the moment. Well, as we speak, that might be right. Nobody is being killed as we speak. Has there been a history? If we have to pull teeth, we will. Has there been a history of Christians being killed in China because of their Christian faith?

Mr Fletcher : Christians have died because of the Christian faith in China, yes. I am talking about judicial processes.

Senator ABETZ: Yes. We talk about judicial processes, but in an authoritarian state, such as a communist regime, it is often difficult to know what is actually a judicial process and that which the authorities permit to occur, be it in police cells or during interrogation, where people die. We might say it was not an execution; they died in police custody. I hope we are not trying to differentiate between those types of circumstances.

Mr Fletcher : I am not confusing those issues.

Senator ABETZ: Good.

Mr Fletcher : There is a lot of abuse of human rights in China. It includes deaths in custody which should not happen. And the legal system operates in China. They have reduced the number of offences for which capital punishment is applied. They are now looking more carefully at every death sentence that is passed. It is reviewed through the Supreme People's Court in Beijing. There is still a very large number of executions that take place. We do not know how many, but it is likely to be at least several thousand every year. But people are charged and executed for crimes which are on the statute books.

Senator ABETZ: And does that include witnessing about one's faith?

Mr Fletcher : No. That is not on the statute books as a crime.

Senator ABETZ: But if one were to be accused of witnessing for one's faith, whatever it might be, it could be considered as undermining the authority of the state and, therefore, by another method, by another crime, Christians and other people of religious persuasion are seen as—

Mr Fletcher : There are Christian leaders who are imprisoned for running an illegal business, for picking fights and causing trouble. There are a number of offences which are of a social order nature which, if the authorities decide they wish to apply against an individual who is bucking the system, they can use. That is what we regard as abuse of the system, and it is something we complain about when we talk to China about human rights.

Senator ABETZ: And I trust that we acknowledge that if a Christian is prosecuted and faces a penalty for doing something against the social order, we acknowledge that that is because of their Christian faith or the Falun Gong faith or whatever faith it might be?

Mr Fletcher : Undoubtedly that is the case.

Senator ABETZ: I return to the issue of organ harvesting and people who travel to China and have organ transplants or implants or whatever. Has the department of foreign affairs made any inquiries as to where those operations are undertaken and the source of those organs?

Mr Fletcher : No.

Senator ABETZ: And why is that? I would have thought it would be a pretty important issue to try to get to grips with, given all the controversy.

Mr Fletcher : Australian law does not permit organ trafficking that is not extra territorial. I think that is just within Australia. I was not aware that there was a trade in individuals in Australia travelling to China for transplants.

Senator ABETZ: Right. It is very dangerous territory for me, accepting what a Greens senator has said. Accept that the minister for health has indicated that—I forget the number—40 or 50—

Mr Fletcher : I think it was 53.

Senator ABETZ: over a period of time have travelled to China for the purposes of an organ transplant. That has not excited the interest of the department to ascertain from whence those organs may have been procured?

Mr Fletcher : No. That is not something that we have taken up.

Senator ABETZ: Well, I invite you to do so. I will leave it at that. I think that this is a matter of concern because there are these allegations. I would encourage you to do so.

Ms Adamson : I will add that of course we can make inquiries on behalf of the committee. As you have raised this matter, we will ensure that we will. I want to reiterate the point I made earlier, which is that it is not possible for foreign embassies in China to conduct independent investigations.

Senator ABETZ: But if we make inquiries, hopefully as an absolute minimum it will inform the Chinese authorities that we are concerned and we have a watching brief on these matters. People, when they come back to Australia, might tell us from which hospital, for example, and then we might be able to have contacts with workers in those hospitals et cetera and just ascertain the truth. Whilst one always has to be careful in relation to allegations of this nature, one suspects they are not pulled out of thin air. I must say I would be interested in getting more information. Thank you for taking it on board.

Ms Adamson : We can certainly ask the question. I am sure we will receive a response.

Senator ABETZ: Yes. I appreciate that.

CHAIR: Thank you, Senator Abetz.

Senator RHIANNON: I want to go to Bougainville and PNG. In an address to parliament on the 22nd to the Bougainville parliament—

Ms Adamson : Excuse me. I am afraid my colleague Mr Sloper, who is the first assistant secretary able to help us with the answers to those questions, has been called away to a meeting and will return at 3.30. I apologise for that. Senator Back, if you are as chair able to manage things so that the question can be taken then, we would be very happy to provide the answers.

CHAIR: So 3.45 pm.

Senator RHIANNON: Chair, I had a couple on Vietnam, but most of them are on Bougainville. I will take your advice.

Ms Adamson : We can take your Vietnam questions now, if it is helpful.

CHAIR: Or you might wait until 3.45 pm and then deliver them.

Senator RHIANNON: So I might have a block of time then?

CHAIR: At 3.45 pm.

Ms Adamson : Thank you, Chair. Apologies.

CHAIR: We will go to you, Senator Moore.

Senator MOORE: I want to go back to the white paper. I have only a single question, which could lead to more. In terms of the process, is this the first white paper under the newly amalgamated or formed department?

Ms Adamson : Yes.

Senator MOORE: On that basis, I would expect that in the process this will include our international aid responsibilities. Is that right?

Ms Adamson : Yes. That is the basis on which we are proceeding.

Senator Fierravanti-Wells: Definitely, Senator Moore.

Senator MOORE: It is just nice to have it on record. Ms Adamson, when we had a previous white paper on aid, which is a long time ago, we had a range of community consultations. That was back when it was AusAID. We had a series of community consultations. What came out of that was an overwhelming demand that people wanted more of them. There may well be officers who were still around—it was not last century; it was this century—when that occurred. We had demand from the community that they wanted to have more of these kinds of things. So you did outline that there was going to be extensive consultation.

Ms Adamson : Yes. We are in the process of discussing precisely what form they will take. But our aim and very much Minister Bishop's aim is to ensure that anyone who has thoughts they wish to contribute to this process is given an opportunity to do so.

Senator MOORE: Good. I just wanted to make sure we are doing what we can.

Mr McDonald : Just to add to that, it was not a white paper, but you will recall in 2011 the review of aid that was done. It was quite an extensive consultation process and it had a panel. That was the last time.

Senator MOORE: Yes. I was thinking even earlier than that, Mr McDonald, when Teresa Gambaro was the relevant official. It was a very large-scale process of consultation at that time. It drew large numbers.

Mr McDonald : Yes. It may have been 2006.

Senator MOORE: Possibly. I think it could well have been. I had a number of questions about West Papua, which I am prepared to put on notice and ask for a briefing around those issues because of the sensitivities in that space.

Senator Fierravanti-Wells: Certainly, Senator Moore.

Senator MOORE: In terms of the process around West Papua, the information on previous questions on notice was that the embassy had close links with community organisations on the ground in West Papua. I was just wanting to get some clarification of that, because much of the information I have been receiving from people with concerns in that space is about community organisations in West Papua concerned about human rights. Our embassy in Indonesia looks after that region. Is that accurate?

Mr Cox : That is right. Yes. It is looked after by our embassy in Jakarta. Both Papua and West Papua provinces, the two provinces there, we refer to as the Papua provinces.

Senator MOORE: Mr Cox, how do the links that the embassy has in place with NGOs, community organisations and religious groups on the ground in West Papua operate?

Mr Cox : Well, a range of embassy officers visit the provinces on a regular basis either doing political liaison or, if they are going down there for aid programming, monitoring. They would contact their contacts by phone or email and then meet them on the ground. They have a diverse range of contacts in the government, the provincial government, the NGOs and in civil society, the church and so forth. So they basically make those arrangements from Jakarta on the phone or email and meet them on the ground.

Senator MOORE: Mr Cox, when I do seek through the minister to have a briefing in this space, would we be able to get more detail about how that operates?

Mr Cox : Yes. Most definitely, yes.

Senator MOORE: So I will put all of them on notice. I want to get into the area of the sustainable development goals, as you would expect. Thank you very much for the briefings I did receive. I really did appreciate them, Mr McDonald and other officers from the department. The annual report does mention the SDGs. I have been asking various departments at a couple of other estimates about their engagement in the SDGs. Mr McDonald, can you spell out for me how the IDC is going to operate and exactly who is on it?

Mr McDonald : Thank you, Senator, and thank you for the question and your interest in this area.

Senator MOORE: I am getting a T-shirt, Mr McDonald. It is very important.

Mr McDonald : You have a T-shirt or you are getting one?

Senator Fierravanti-Wells: Get one of those little coloured badges—

Mr McDonald : Little badges, yeah.

Senator Fierravanti-Wells: for Senator Moore, yes.

Mr McDonald : Next time I am in the UN, I will look high and low for a badge, Senator, for you. In terms of the IDC, we had the first meeting. It is jointly chaired by deputy secretary of Prime Minister and Cabinet Lin Hatfield Dodds and myself as the deputy secretary in foreign affairs. Seventeen agencies were invited to that, and all other than defence were able to attend, but they will be in the future meetings. We also talked about who we would add. For example, CSIRO will be added in terms of their role. We are consulting with other agencies around expanding it as we need to. It is important from our point of view to collectively cover the complete canvas of activity. We also have a first assistant secretary committee underneath that that is chaired by Natasha Smith, who has just arrived at the table. They have work ahead of them that the IDC have provided to them, including mapping Australia's domestic efforts against the SDGs and our international efforts.

If you look at our overall policy, Australia is fairly well aligned with the SDGs in terms of our international policy. So that work is the next piece of work that we are going to consider as part of the IDC. The IDC will meet around about quarterly, but it has a give and take in terms of the work that the division head group are doing. They are going to bring that work to us to consider. That will lead to what other work is required across government. So, as you know, the government signed up for these in September 2015 with another 192 countries. We have been very conscious and very active.

I think it is important that I say here from Australia's perspective that many of us will say there should have been fewer goals than 17, but in reality there were some that were very important for us that we fought hard for. It will not surprise you that one of those is around gender—women and girls. The other one was around peace and security. Goal 16 was particularly important to Australia, as was goal 8, the economic goal. So the trouble with a system where you have 193 countries involved is if you all want fewer goals, some of the goals are more important to one country than another.

The final comment I would make is underpinning how countries are going in implementing the SDGs is an important aspect. When you look at countries within our region like the Pacific, their access to data to be able to report against that is a real issue. So we are working with those countries around those goals that are most important to them. Think about a number of Pacific countries. The ocean goal will be important. That is a goal that we have really focussed on through our blue economy challenge in the innovation exchange. So that is, I suppose, a broad run-through.

Senator MOORE: So on notice, Mr McDonald, can I get a list of the departments that were in the original group?

Mr McDonald : Yes. Actually, I can give it to you.

Senator MOORE: Do not read them all. It is just a waste of time. I will get a list of them. When I asked PM&C, one of the things we talked about was the fact that this is the first time we have domestic responsibilities to sign on. PM&C was really coordinating from the domestic side and DFAT was coordinating from the international side. There was an indication that a lot of things are yet to be determined. It is a very preliminary step that the country has made so far. What is the first reporting responsibility that we have? We signed in September last year. We have until 2030. When do we have to make the first report?

Mr McDonald : I will ask Ms Smith to add to this. There are two voluntary reporting requirements on all countries from the start of 2016 to 2030. There are two. It is up to the countries to decide when to do that. We will, as part of the IDC, provide advice to our government on when we think we should do it. Some countries have got in quite early. I think 22 of them last year—

Senator MOORE: Did a first report, yes.

Mr McDonald : Report. That is really where you are at at that point. There is also some discussion around whether you should report a little bit later. You can talk about what has actually changed to your reporting point since the start of the SDGs and then, of course, towards the end of the 2030 period. But there are other reporting requirements. I might ask Ms Smith to add to that.

Ms Smith : Yes, just to add to what Mr McDonald has said, two other global reports will be happening out of the UN. The first one is the global sustainable development report. That is going to be done every four years. The first one will be in 2019.

Senator MOORE: That is the one we all have to do?

Ms Smith : Well, we are still waiting to see, because the way it is going to be put together is a panel of 15 independent experts are to take that forward.

Senator MOORE: That in itself is worrying, Ms Smith, but anyway. They are appointed by the UN?

Ms Smith : Yes. The process is not terribly clear, but there has certainly been a call for those experts to nominate. That is supposed to track technical and policy trends, gaps, challenges and successes across the whole agenda. But we are waiting to find out exactly how they are going to take that forward and what sort of separate reporting we might need to do. There is an awful lot of, frankly, information and statistics that Australia provides as a matter of course. The Australian Bureau of Statistics has actually been very involved in the process of developing the indicators that sit underneath the goals. They will continue, through the UN Statistical Commission, to be part of that process. We are working very closely with them. ABS was one of the—

Senator MOORE: Seventeen?

Ms Smith : One of the 17 and spoke at that IDC. We work very closely and have worked closely with them in the last couple of years. The other UN progress report is an annual report that the UN Department for Economic and Social Affairs puts together. That is based on official data that they collect from what they call national statistical offices, which for us is the ABS. The first one of those was released in July, but it was only six months after the SDGs technically came into effect on 1 January this year. So it was really limited in terms of what it had in it. It really focussed less on results and more on some of the methodological issues and data constraints that Mr McDonald mentioned.

Senator MOORE: That is an annual process, a four-year process. You mentioned two voluntary reports, Mr McDonald. Are they them, or is that something else again?

Ms Smith : No. That is separate again. So for all countries it is voluntary, but all countries, it is hoped, will report twice in the 15-year period. That reporting process is through the high-level political forum, which is held in New York at the UN every July. As Mr McDonald said, 22 countries reported this July. Some of those reports were fairly preliminary in nature because of how early the agenda is. Some of them really focus more on the sorts of processes that countries were thinking about or had put in place around the agenda.

Senator MOORE: So in terms of Australia's process, one of the things that a number of people are looking at is to have the community more engaged with understanding the SDGs, because they were not with the MDGs. It was fair enough to say that was an international aid kind of area, so people turned off. It belonged to someone else. But this one is not meant to be that way. It is meant to be engaging. Minister, it is probably more a question for you in terms of a process of linking reporting to the parliament that there is somehow some form of report back to the parliament about how we are going on something like this. That is something we can talk about at another time. It just seems to me to be something to be considered.

Senator Fierravanti-Wells: Thank you, Senator Moore. I will certainly take that on board. I think Mr McDonald may wish to report on some other initiatives that are part of this process which do go particularly to that point and involve the corporate sector in Australia. I think that the extension domestically has meant that different parts of our community now have to focus or are focussing on this in creative ways. I think Mr McDonald wants to add to that.

Senator MOORE: Mr McDonald, would that come under goal 17?

Mr McDonald : Yes. The partnerships, yes.

Senator MOORE: How we actually make it happen?

Mr McDonald : Yes. Look, just on this, it is probably worth saying that we talk about the SDGs, but across the globe it is really talked about as agenda 2030. The reason it is talked about as agenda 2030—and I was at Addis Ababa when the finance side of it was agreed—is to meet the goals is going to cost us trillions of dollars each year. So the agreement in Addis around the financing, particularly leveraging the private sector funding into this as well, is an important aspect. In Australia, there is the SDN network; I cannot get the acronym right. There was an event that the minister and I were at in Sydney where the minister opened. We had a very diverse crowd of private sector bodies, NGOs, philanthropics, interested community people and youth.

Senator MOORE: By invitation, Mr McDonald, or was it open—come along and have a party?

Mr McDonald : No. It was invitation by Sam Mostyn and John Thwaites.

Senator MOORE: Yes—in terms of the role that Thwaites is continuing to have.

Mr McDonald : Yes. That was a really good event. The minister presented and spoke about our priorities as the Australian government. The private sector signed up to an undertaking. There were very key companies in Australia. So did the NGO network as supporting the SDGs going forward. I actually think it was a really good process. John and certainly ACFID have been liaising with us very closely on this going forward, and we will continue to have a very close partnership with them.

Senator MOORE: The final issue is work within departments. Once departments are involved in this process, it is going to be within their internal budgets to fund what they do?

Mr McDonald : I think one of the reasons we want to do the mapping is to actually see what work is underway currently within the Australian government domestically that aligns with the SDGs. That will give the government a good holistic view of where we are with that and what further opportunities there are going forward to add to that.

Senator MOORE: And not to increase the burden, if at all possible, I would think. That was certainly an issue with health yesterday. They already do so much data collection for so many different purposes without having to have another level of responsibility with something. It was to be determined what was required, but they were hoping that what they were collecting already would feed effectively into a number of goals from which they would be involved, which, again, would be many apart from health and ageing.

Mr McDonald : Yes. And we have had many discussions with health. Of course, the ABS have been very important in terms of our liaison not only since the SDGs but leading up to them. They are still involved with work with the UN around trying to minimise it. In a number of these countries, we really should try to minimise the impact of the reporting as much as we can. Through our aid program, we will be trying to help countries within our region to put in systems that enable them to see how they are going.

Senator MOORE: In terms of entrenching the concept of the SDGs into the programs in our departments across the board and in our aid program or international development program, how is that being progressed? We already have the different frameworks in international policy. They do not at this stage have the SDGs clearly linked into them in terms of how it is all done. It is almost like a check sheet so that when you are looking at a program, you actually align it to SDG blah, blah, blah in terms of the process and reporting. That is down the track. But it is not there yet, is it?

Mr McDonald : We have done mapping of that within DFAT. That was one of the things that this division did quite early.

Senator MOORE: And that is complete?

Mr McDonald : I am going to put Ms Smith on the spot here, but it was definitely done. I have definitely seen it.

Senator MOORE: So it has been completed?

Ms Smith : I think it will be a rolling map, if you like. It is not going to be at a point in time. Yes, it is looking across our policies and programs to see where the alignment is. We are encouraging program areas—they are doing things in gender, education and health—to think about that now in terms of the SDGs as well as the aid policy, given that very strong alignment that is there. We are also looking not only at the aid program but also at what we are doing more broadly in our foreign policy and trade that aligns with the agenda.

Senator MOORE: We now have the reporting framework. The report that will come out in February is the next major report on the review of the aid program?

Ms Smith : The performance of Australian aid.

Senator MOORE: That is due next February for this year. Will that have this kind of reporting against the SDGs?

Ms Smith : I am not sure exactly how that report is going to map, but, yes, there would certainly be at least some narrative around how that alignment is happening.

Senator MOORE: Yes. It is a stepped process.

Ms Smith : A stepped process. I think you will see over time those goals become clearer in our policies and processes and how that reporting and mapping follows across.

Senator Fierravanti-Wells: Certainly our aid priorities do align with some of the key SDGs. There is no doubt about that. When you break down the priorities of our Australian overseas development assistance, we are hitting the key goals of gender, health, education and various economics et cetera, so we are doing that. But I take your point about the formal alignment. I think we will look at ways that we can perhaps do that. I think as Ms Smith has said, we are doing it. We are doing an across government audit, if I can put it in those terms. I think you will find that in the next reporting of our performance of our aid, you will see where those alignments and those synergies clearly do come together.

Senator MOORE: Because it will be a full-year report of a report post our signature to the international community, yes?

Mr McDonald : It will be half a year because it reports in 2015-16. There is just the time we have got to do the quality checking et cetera. Another point is important given the different capacities of countries. Think about Indonesia versus Tuvalu. Their capacity to deal with 17 goals is very different. So one thing we have been working with the countries on—and all our aid priorities are country-led—is the priorities within the SDG in this country at this time.

Senator MOORE: So that is already in place, Mr McDonald?

Mr McDonald : Yes.

Senator MOORE: If I spoke to—which I am not going to—every single ambassador, they would say that part of their responsibility will be talking about the SDGs with the community and the government?

Mr McDonald : Well, with the government. It has been country-led in the government. Our divisions and heads of mission are involved in the priorities that we jointly agreed between Australia and those countries. I think it is important because 17 is a lot of goals. There are 169—

Senator MOORE: There are 160 underneath, yes.

Mr McDonald : Yes. I think we have to help our countries manage within that. I thought I would mention that.

Senator MOORE: I take the point, Mr McDonald, because your annual report talks about that. One of the priorities is to support developing nations within our region to work out where they fit. There has been some preliminary debate—because it is still fairly preliminary; we have 28 years to go—about goal shopping. For a small country like Tuvalu, I have no doubt that there is just no way. But for a country like Australia, there is a bit of a view that if we signed up, we signed up for 17. There is going to be a different focus. In some countries it could never be, but we will see how it goes as various people talk about it. But it would be disappointing if Australia selected one or two that they focused on to the exclusion of others. You would know that ACFID itself has put out a paper that says that if you start selecting, you weaken the overall result.

Mr McDonald : Yes. I think that is why it is so important we do the mapping. The mapping is covering the collective goals. Yes, I think that is the next step of information that we need.

Senator MOORE: So we have had one meeting of the overall IDC for Australia that possibly will be meeting quarterly. But there is this deputy secretary group that feeds off it?

Mr McDonald : A division head group. So the IDC is a deputy secretary group. We expect it to meet quarterly.

Senator MOORE: One of the departments was not quite sure.

Mr McDonald : No. It is definitely. Last time I looked, I was a deputy secretary. Maybe the secretary has already—

Senator MOORE: Your department has been very clear, Mr McDonald. The message from DFAT was clear. It is just one of the departments got a little bit of a shock, actually.

Mr McDonald : In fairness to people who attended, it was—

Senator MOORE: It is only a month ago.

Mr McDonald : Yes. It was the first meeting. I will be honest with you. I thought the engagement around the table and the discussion around the table was very positive. There was agreement on these actions that needed to be done. There was an agreement on a division head committee underneath it. So when you say quarterly, I do not want you to think we are going to push out the IDC. Ideally, we will meet quarterly. But we were conscious of not putting pressure on the division heads if they could not deliver something or they needed us to meet earlier to consider something.

Senator Fierravanti-Wells: Senator Moore, I think Ms Smith had something else to add.

Ms Smith : I want to add to what Mr McDonald said about the engagement with the community on the question you asked. Certainly the summit that was held jointly by ACOSS, ACFID, SDSN and Global Compact Network Australia, which is the private sector side of things, was a really important event, but it is not the be-all and end-all of our engagement. In fact, we have had engagement with all of them—less so ACOSS, because we are internationally focussed—such as ACFID and the private sector groups. It has not just started since that summit. We have had engagement with them all through the negotiation of this agenda as well as since. So we have met regularly with ACFID to talk about how they are taking it forward, what we might be doing and how we might work together.

Mr McDonald : It is worth noting that when the SDGs were adopted in September, the foreign minister invited Sam Mostynto be part of the Australian delegation to the event. Of course, from our point of view, that was a very positive offer. I think if you asked Sam, she would say exactly the same.

Senator MOORE: In terms of process, it would seem to me this would just be an ongoing agenda to go through. If I think of anything else at this stage, I will put them on notice. Can I ask one more question before we break? It will be a quick one.

CHAIR: You certainly can, Senator Moore.

Senator MOORE: It is to do with the various issues based ambassadors in the department. Can I get an update on which ones we have got and their terms? I counted a few, but I am not sure whether I got them all.

Ms Adamson : I think earlier in the day when the question was asked, we undertook to provide a full list, which we are happy to do.

Senator MOORE: I am sorry. I must have been not listening. So you have a full list. My understanding is that they are part-time positions. That could be different. The ones I was aware of were part-time positions. I asked when they run to. Do they all run out at the same time, or is there a sequence of when their terms end? It might be just a plain yes or no.

Dr Strahan : Two of the thematic ambassadors work out of my division. One is the ambassador for women and girls. Currently, that is Natasha Stott Despoja. Her term is due to finish at the end of the year.

Senator MOORE: Calendar year?

Dr Strahan : Yes. She has done a magnificent job and has been a fine advocate for our country.

Senator MOORE: There is no argument there, Dr Strahan.

Dr Strahan : The second position in my division is the special envoy for human rights, Phillip Ruddock. His appointment continues until October next year. So they do not run on a set schedule.

Senator MOORE: So there is no schedule because they have come on at different times?

Dr Strahan : No. They are all one by one.

Senator MOORE: Right. If I can get a list on that term, there will be subsequent questions that come from that. The other point was around the proposal that was on the books a few years ago about an ambassador for disability within the network. Have there been any ongoing discussion about what is happening with that proposal? It was in a previous government, but there was a proposal made that it would happen and then nothing happened; there was a change of government.

Mr Fisher : I can speak in one sense from the corporate side. I am the champion for disability within the department. That is an internal phase-in arrangement. So on one side we do do that, but I will leave Dr Strahan to speak further.

Senator MOORE: That is a Public Service action. There has been an encouragement across the Australian Public Service to have those positions. So you have the position in DFAT?

Mr Fisher : Correct. And looking after the interests of staff and our diversity within the organisation.

Mr McDonald : I will add to the broader disability ambassador issue. I am not aware of that being considered recently. But I think it is important to know—and you will know this from when you were in government—the disability focus within our aid program is still extremely high. Australia is seen as a leader in that and still is. In developing the second strategy, we did that with the disability sector. They had a huge involvement in that, including in holding us to account on the first plan. I did an event in Geneva with the discrimination commissioner and another advocate from here in Australia and it was a fantastic event. They held us to account for going forward. So from our point of view, it is extremely important that we have an inclusive approach to the delivery of our aid. That has always been there for Australia and it is still as high as it always has been and will be.

CHAIR: And on that note, we shall suspend until 3.45 pm, when Senator Rhiannon will be asking her questions.

Proceedings suspended from 3.30 to 3.46 pm

CHAIR: Mr McDonald, I will go to you before Senator Rhiannon.

Mr McDonald : There were a couple of questions this morning around the Clinton Foundation that we said we would get back in touch with the committee on. The first question was how much was paid to the Clinton Health Access Initiative this financial year. The amount is $11,174,434.

CHAIR: That is 2015-16?

Mr McDonald : The 2015-16 financial year. The second question was: is the Clinton Foundation unique in terms of the amount paid to it compared with the other NGOs? The answer is no. It is not. For example, CHAI received less funding than the top 20 NGO recipients in the aid program. So, no, they are not the top.

CHAIR: Thank you.

Mr McDonald : The final question was in relation to Mr Varghese. Senator Gallacher asked about an $88,000 contract. We have entered into a contract with the former secretary to serve as a member of the high-level panel on the future of the OECD Development Assistance Committee. The amount of the contract represents the maximum amount possible for expenditure around travel, as we talked about earlier. That was based on four international overseas trips. Mr Varghese will not be able to attend the next meeting, so it is likely to be a much lower amount. As I said earlier, Mr Varghese is not receiving remuneration for his role.

CHAIR: He is not receiving remuneration?

Mr McDonald : Not receiving remuneration.

CHAIR: Thanks, Mr McDonald.

Senator RHIANNON: My questions are about Bougainville and PNG.

Mr Sloper : I apologise that I was not here before.

Senator RHIANNON: No worries. Thank you very much. In an address to the Bougainville government in December last year, the Autonomous Bougainville Government President acknowledged it is unlikely that the mine at Panguna will reopen. The president has made public his concern that the Australian company Rio Tinto is selling its 53 per cent stake in Bougainville Copper Limited without remedying the significant environmental and social damage inflicted on local communities by the company. Can you outline what steps the Australian government is taking to ensure Rio Tinto adequately addresses the significant human and environmental damage caused by its mine on Bougainville?

Mr Sloper : Thank you. I think, as you know from our previous discussions, we do follow mining issues within Bougainville. On the specific issue of the redistribution of the shares in Bougainville Copper Limited and the ownership of the Panguna mine, these are both really issues for the Autonomous Bougainville Government to deal with in consultation with the Papua New Guinean government and the companies concerned. We do not have a formal position in regard to that. So we are monitoring developments and recognise the clear sensitivities about the future of the Panguna mine, but we are not participating in that discussion at this stage.

Senator RHIANNON: But the question was what the Australian government is doing to ensure that Rio Tinto adequately addresses the problems that it has left behind, environmental and social.

Mr Sloper : We are not taking any steps with regard to that at this stage.

Senator RHIANNON: So, even though the Australian government gives aid, and a lot of the aid is addressing problems that have arisen because of Rio Tinto's decades of damage, that is not being taken up in any context at all?

Mr Sloper : I will respond with a few points. Firstly, I would not characterise our Bougainville ODA as dependent on what actions are taken by BCL in the past. We are responding to the situation that followed after the tensions and the breakdown there and as an observer to the peace agreement. As has been discussed before, we support the foundations of peace and stability. Of course we had discussions with BCL, Rio Tinto and others, as we do with the national government and the Autonomous Bougainville Government. There was a deal struck between Rio Tinto and then, through that, really BCL and, directly behind, with the Papua New Guinean national government at the point of its exit. They have had discussions in regard to that, but we have not intervened directly in that.

Senator RHIANNON: So it was not an intervention; it was just about engagement? That is what I am trying to assess. From the way you have responded and, considering other examples, it seems that Australian companies cause damage in these countries and then the Australian government, to some extent, picks up the pieces without holding Australian companies to account.

Mr Sloper : The Australian company concerned operated under the legislation set by the Papua New Guinean government at the time. I am fully aware of the sensitivity around Panguna and how that led to the conflict.

Senator RHIANNON: And the Australian government was giving a great deal of advice to the PNG government at the time. Surely you can see that there is a connection between these issues?

Mr Sloper : I do not think the Australian government is responsible for the actions of independent Australian companies operating in overseas environments when they are consistent with the local legislation. I appreciate the concerns around the Panguna mine. I would say we are dealing directly with the Bougainville government in providing a whole range of support across their society—and I think we have discussed this before—in terms of trying to build stability. I can outline some of that. In the past, we have spoken about advice we have provided in regard to mining legislation. We are not working on that at present. But we are not directly engaged in the issues you have raised.

Senator RHIANNON: I will just take up the issue of support that you have mentioned. It was revealed in a number of documents obtained through freedom of information in Britain and the US that DFAT actively opposed a Bougainville class action against Rio Tinto which was taking place in America through the alien tort statute. If Bougainvilleans again elect to obtain remediation for damages associated with the mine through litigation against Rio Tinto, will the department continue to apply its financial resources to block those efforts?

Mr Sloper : I cannot comment on the previous situation. I think it is hypothetical about what we might do in the future. But we are obviously in consultation with the Bougainville government on a regular basis on the challenges they face.

Senator RHIANNON: Why is that a hypothetical situation? Is not part of your job to be monitoring what has happened, what could happen and give advice on that? All I am trying to understand—

Mr Sloper : Certainly we monitor—

Senator RHIANNON: is how you do your job.

Mr Sloper : We certainly do monitor. I am sorry. I beg your pardon.

Senator RHIANNON: That is all right. I am just understanding how you do your job on something that is so critical to a near neighbour.

Mr Sloper : It is critical. It is part of the peace process within Bougainville and essential to their future prosperity that they resolve how mining can occur on the island. We do engage the Bougainville government, as we do with the PNG national government. It is hypothetical because you posited a possible case in the future should it come forward, and that issue has not arisen. It could arise and, at that time, the government will make a decision on our policy position at that time based on advice we provide them.

Senator RHIANNON: DFAT has previously acknowledged it has not read the PNG Auditor-General's report on the Autonomous Bougainville Government. This report was raised before. It issues a number of sobering warnings over significant gaps in governments, transparency and auditing procedure that expose ABG resources to the threat of corruption and mismanagement. The Auditor-General's concerns are broadly echoed by Bougainville's own public accounts committee. Given that promoting effective governance is now the number one priority underpinning Australia's aid program in PNG, the concerns raised by the Auditor-General would appear especially important. Has the department now read the report of the Auditor-General's office and any other reporting, such as the public accounts committee findings? What is its response?

Mr Sloper : Senator, I personally have not read the report, but we do monitor the situation across PNG in terms of corruption and fraud risks. We have zero tolerance in the aid program toward that. Any allegations that are made, we investigate any allegations made and refer to local authorities as appropriate. With regard to both Bougainville and the national government, as you identify, governance is a priority. In Bougainville's case directly, through aid earmarked particularly for that government, the Autonomous Bougainville Government, we have a program both in governance civil society and peace building. Law and justice is another area. They are all directed towards strengthening the governance and the issues that are identified by you. I am not saying it is perfect. There are real challenges; I appreciate that. We are working with both the Autonomous Bougainville Government and independent bodies to strengthen adherence to governance principles across Papua New Guinea.

Senator RHIANNON: Is the department judging that corruption is a significant challenge for Bougainville at present, particularly with regard to the ABG? It is a simple question.

Mr Sloper : Sure. I understand. I was not making a specific comment on the ABG itself. What I was trying to do was note the context was not inconsistent with broader issues across PNG in terms of governance and, in fact, in other areas of the Pacific. That is why it is a priority within our aid program. We want to make sure that moneys—ours and those of our partner governments—are used as effectively as possible.

Senator RHIANNON: So you would agree that it is a significant challenge for that region?

Mr Sloper : To give you an example, Transparency International, for example, have a corruption perceptions index. PNG ranks 139 out of 168 countries, with a score of 25 out of 100, so I think that paints a clear picture of the challenge within Papua New Guinea.

Senator RHIANNON: Can you specifically outline what types of corruption pose the most risk in Bougainville.

Mr Sloper : I would have to take that on notice if there were specific issues relating to Bougainville as opposed to other provinces.

Senator RHIANNON: Thank you. Will aid be invested in organisations that can inquire into, monitor and prosecute corruption on Bougainville? Is that something that you are addressing through the aid program? Will where you targeted our aid to address these issues of corruption?

Mr Sloper : I do not know within Bougainville itself whether we have a specific funding arrangement with those sort of organisations. But certainly more broadly we do. We fund NGOs as well as working with companies.

Senator RHIANNON: When you say 'more broadly', do you mean PNG or do you mean more broadly in Bougainville?

Mr Sloper : I mean in PNG and across the Pacific. In Bougainville, I do not know whether we have a specific funding arrangement with, say, an NGO or a group advocating for greater transparency, if you like. I am confident that within Papua New Guinea we are funding those sort of organisations. We also work with the government on that.

Senator RHIANNON: So are some of the bilateral programs, leaving NGOs alone for a moment, with Bougainville addressing corruption through ways to monitor and prosecute corruption?

Mr Sloper : Based on the briefing, I cannot answer that question, but I can take it on notice. Our governance program includes advisory support. It covers project management, HR, legislation drafting and financial management. Projects outside of government include support for community radio. Then it goes into general recruitment and others for the government. But I can take it on notice.

Senator RHIANNON: Take it on notice, thank you. In the Aid investment plan Papua New Guinea: 2015-16 to 2017-18, the department states:

We will expand our economic assistance for Bougainville to support private sector engagement in agriculture. As part of a new program of research for development on transformative agriculture and enterprise development in PNG, we will support the strengthening of rural communities through the restoration of profitable cocoa production on Bougainville.

Could you elaborate on the particular approach to private sector engagement the department will be using to help build agricultural production in Bougainville.

Mr Sloper : I might take that on notice. I do know we have a project relating to cocoa on the island. It is reinvigorating or rehabilitating, if you like, some previous plantations and working with local owners to improve that. But I can take on notice and come back to you with more details.

Senator RHIANNON: Thank you. Take this on notice too. I am trying to understand if your assistance will be directed towards small-scale, smallholder production led by local people using customary land tenure systems and rural management structures, or do you plan greater emphasis on foreign investments and larger plantations, or a mix?

Mr Sloper : I think it is a mix.

Senator RHIANNON: If it is a mix—take it on notice—could you provide the details. If it is a mix, what is the proportion between small and big?

Mr Sloper : I can do that. Senator, you asked earlier about corruption. Just to give you examples of some of the projects we do support across Papua New Guinea, there is the Justice Services and Stability for Development Program. That works with both agencies I mentioned and at provincial levels directly to work against corruption and builds a capability to detect, investigate and prosecute it. We also support Transparency International and its operations within PNG.

Senator RHIANNON: Thank you. In the department's aid investment plan 2015-18, it is noted:

We will also support PNG’s preparations to host the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum in 2018.

I was after details—maybe take this on notice, because I have a few questions—of the specific projects, infrastructure, facilities and personnel we will be funding for APEC in PNG, including both monetary support and in-kind support.

Mr Sloper : I can answer now that there is no decision by government yet on those particular aspects. We are in regular consultation at the officials level about what PNG may require in terms of support for the events. Once we have a clear understanding of that, we will put recommendations to government on how we may assist. The focus to date in terms of the requests from Papua New Guinea have focussed on security assistance. They are not with regard to infrastructure, logistics and the broader event. If we were to invest in infrastructure, it would not be directly related to APEC.

Senator RHIANNON: When do you anticipate making the decisions about the additional APEC assistance?

Mr Sloper : In the next few months I would expect that would occur.

Senator RHIANNON: Next few months? 'Few' means two or three?

Mr Sloper : Before the end of this year.

Senator RHIANNON: Before the end of the year. Thank you.

Mr Sloper : Subject to government considerations. It may slip, but that is the case.

Senator RHIANNON: Thank you. At the 23rd Papua New Guinea Australian ministerial forum, the ministers agreed to establish a bilateral task force to coordinate Australia's assistance. Could you provide information on the terms of reference of the task force and its membership?

Mr Sloper : Can I confirm that, with regard to APEC 2018, the task force you are referring to?

Senator RHIANNON: Yes, please.

Mr Sloper : That is actually a Papua New Guinea task force. It is part of their own planning and operations to host APEC 2018 and they have invited Australia to participate in that. It is called a security policy working group. Within that forum we deal with a range of PNG agencies. On our side, I think in addition to DFAT, we have representatives from the Australian Federal Police and the Australian Defence Force, both of which have programs running in Papua New Guinea. Our Attorney-General's Department from time to time is involved. But they are the three key agencies.

Senator RHIANNON: Can you supply the terms of reference and the membership of the task force, please?

Mr Sloper : It is not an Australian government task force. We would need to seek the permission of the Papua New Guinean government to do so because they constitute the task force chair and determine who they wish to invite.

Senator RHIANNON: I understood the key reason for the bilateral task force is to coordinate work with Australia.

Mr Sloper : I understand that the statement referred to a bilateral task force. Subsequently, the Papua New Guinea government decided that the structure they would prefer to proceed with was part of their overall APEC planning authority. So there is, if you like, a security policy working group to which we have been invited. We are not involved in the—

Senator RHIANNON: Okay. Take that on notice, please.

Mr Sloper : I will need to consult with the Papua New Guinea government.

Senator RHIANNON: I understand that has to happen. Has any Australian aid money or any Australian money gone towards any part of the Paga Hill estate development for APEC, including associated infrastructure such as roads?

Mr Sloper : Not to my knowledge. I do not think, as I outlined earlier, we have contributed directly to any APEC preparations at this stage.

Senator RHIANNON: Is the Australian government aware of any contributions it has made to the Asian Development Bank or the World Bank that has gone to the Paga Hill estate development that is going to be central to the APEC operations in PNG? I understand that is where the whole event will possibly be held.

Mr Sloper : Can I take that on notice? We fund a range of activities from the ADB and World Bank throughout the region, including Port Moresby. I just need to determine whether that is one of them.

Senator RHIANNON: Thank you. Has the Australian government engaged Curtain Bros or Curtain Bros Pty Limited or its subsidiaries in an Australian aid program?

Mr Sloper : I will need to take that on notice. Curtain Bros is a well-known business operation within Papua New Guinea. I do not think we are directly engaged with them on the aid program, but I can confirm that and come back to you.

Senator RHIANNON: I will say the aid program or the APEC program.

Mr Sloper : I understand. On APEC we have not. My understanding is that the Papua New Guinea government is in discussion with Curtain Bros, but we have not engaged them at all on APEC related matters.

Senator RHIANNON: With regard to that, if they are, could you give details, including the project contract amounts, contract details, timeframes and financial amount?

Mr Sloper : I will answer that now. We are not now dealing with Curtain Bros in regard to APEC 2018, so there will not be any of those details available.

Senator RHIANNON: Thank you very much.

Mr Sloper : If I may have indulgence, Senator Fawcett asked a question earlier about Vanuatu. I have an answer to it, if you would like me to put it on the record.

Senator FAWCETT: Yes. Please go ahead.

Mr Sloper : You asked about your visit and then subsequent work we might be doing. I think you visited Seaside Tongoa and Seaside Paama in Port Vila.

Senator FAWCETT: That is correct.

Mr Sloper : We have a Port Vila urban development project, which is supporting the construction and upgrading of community sanitation facilities there. The contract for the community sanitation facilities was signed in April 2016. We have made some good progress. As you are probably aware, when concluded, the communities will have access to toilets, showers and laundry facilities. The estimated cost of the total urban development program will be about $31 million from 2012 to 2018, so it is an ongoing work. It was impacted by the cyclone, but substantial works are continuing. You also asked about water containers. I am not sure it was in regard to that project or elsewhere, because we do have at a discretionary level a decision from the head of mission, a discretionary aid program. A small amount has been used also to fund water containers.

Senator FAWCETT: That was because when the committee visited, this community of around 1,500 people had one tap. They were storing water in rusty fridges and other things like that. For a very small cost we thought we could get some better health outcomes.

Mr Sloper : That is right. That project did go ahead, and we provided 279 water containers due to that local shortage. They are now in place.

Senator FAWCETT: Great. Thank you. While you are here, I was going to start with humanitarian issues in the Middle East, but there are also issues in the Pacific. While you are here, I will ask those questions. I have asked a couple of questions before about support we have given to Vanuatu and Fiji post cyclones. As we approach the cyclone season again, what is the department doing in terms of our preparation and the preparation of the communities? Is any of our aid program going to resilience measures in those communities in the Pacific?

Mr Sloper : I am being joined by a colleague who looks after humanitarian response planning and building resilience. I would say at the beginning that, yes, we are doing things across the region. Part of our broader program invests in building resilience. That can be through infrastructure. It could be climate related projects. They are often village based or city based. It can be as simple as a sea wall to prevent king tides and so on, as an example. Over the next four years, we are investing about $300 million across the region in regard to that. That is done in consultation with bilateral programs. We identify priorities with individual governments. With regard to the specific seasons coming ahead, I might pass to Mr Isbister to talk about that.

Senator FAWCETT: Sure. Just before you do, most learning organisations have a lessons learned type process, where you catalogue and then actually articulate the key lessons you have learned from previous activities. So does DFAT, along with the Department of Defence, go through a structured program with the nation we have been supporting so that at the end of something like Winston we end up with a lessons learned and a repriority list that we then look to invest in?

Mr Sloper : In short, yes, we do. I will pass to Mr Isbister, who chairs that process.

Mr Isbister : Maybe I will take your most immediate question and then come back on the preparedness issue leading into the specific cyclone season. In terms of the lessons learned, yes, absolutely. As you know, we have had two of the largest cyclones to go through the South Pacific ever with Cyclone Pam in Vanuatu and then Cyclone Winston in Fiji. With both of those, we did lessoned learned within the department. We looked at lessons learned and emerged from that and did a lessons learned exercise with their military.

In terms of what has come from those lessons learned and where we go with them, in terms of the military, a lot of the issues that have come out in terms of lessons learned, around how we further streamline deployments of people and relief supplies on the planes et cetera, has been fed into a lot of exercises we do together. We are regularly exercising with the defence department during the year in terms of ensuring how we align both the civilian and military capabilities to best support Pacific countries and other countries within our region in responding to crises. I think some of the lessons learned have also identified what types of stores and investments in preparedness pay the best dividends into the future. On the stores issue, we have recently launched a humanitarian stores challenge, which was basically going out to a range of partners—the private sector and others—to look at what new technologies and products in off-grid energy. One of the big issues in Cyclone Pam and in Winston was the loss of power. That had big impacts in terms of mobile health clinics no longer being able to keep vaccinations at certain temperatures and whatever else. So we are looking at how we can rapidly deploy off-grid energy models that can ensure that while the broader power energy and grid might be down, remote areas can have access to critical power.

We also looked at issues around water and sanitation and what products are available to quickly assist with water and sanitation needs and assets. The other one is around temporary shelter. Coming out of Winston we have substantial shelter kits, which include basic building materials and tarpaulins. One of the issues that came in is that next step before permanent arrangements get put up. What types of more short- to medium-term temporary shelter can be allowed to get people out of evacuation centres?

Senator FAWCETT: I want to specifically look at Fiji, which has a good military. Our relationship with them was on hold for a period given their domestic political situation. As we have reconnected, are we actively offering places for their civil engineers within the military to come and receive training in Australia? I am aware that it is very easy for what they call the arms corps—the infantry, officers and others—to take priority in terms of exchanges between nations. But in terms of increasing the resilience and their ability to prepare and then recover from natural disasters, training and equipping their engineers is actually quite a high priority. Are defence and DFAT jointly making a priority of making those places available and offering them up to Fiji?

Mr Isbister : Maybe I will answer part of that. Mr Sloper may follow up with the more specific issue about invitations to engineers and defence people from Fiji to Australia. One of the things Winston has really highlighted is how critical an effective national capacity is to a good response. Cyclone Winston—and I have been involved in a wide range of different humanitarian crises—was one of the most effective responses in terms of how a government self-led a response and the international effort came in aligned with it, acknowledging that it was dealing with a very chaotic environment.

One of the things we have right now, for example, is the Pacific humanitarian partnership meeting. It happens annually—it is actually happening in Suva right now—where we bring together Fiji counterparts, Australia, New Zealand, Tonga, a range of other countries, to look at both preparations before the cyclone season and how we can draw on different assets within the region most effectively. Fiji has certainly been one of them. That is an area that we will continue to invest in.

The last thing I will mention before Mr Sloper is that we have placed two people through the Australian civilian corps into the Fiji national disaster management organisation. They were there before Cyclone Winston. We have deployed two further ones now for the next 12 months. They play a really critical role not just in terms of when a crisis occurs as a liaison between the government and Australia but also in developing the systems and capacity for countries in the Pacific to lead their responses to crises.

Senator FAWCETT: I have two questions, again on Pacific and humanitarian disasters. I will continue with the humanitarian disasters. One of the other ones that the world is obviously looking at at the moment is the situation in northern Iraq and Syria and the flows into countries. Could you just outline for the committee an update of what we are doing with those regional countries and NGOs in that space, particularly for those who might be disadvantaged, be that minorities or often women and girls in those environments?

Mr Isbister : I might make some broad points and then invite my colleague Mike Innes-Brown to maybe talk a bit more specifically in relation to marginalised groups or the effects on them. I think you have highlighted in the region the Middle East, particularly in Iraq and Syria, that we are facing one of the worst humanitarian crises in recent history. Millions of people are being displaced both internally and across borders. One of the things that the Australian government has been actively doing for quite a number of years but continuing obviously now is looking at how we effectively target our assistance with the key humanitarian partners such that it has the best access to provide assistance to those communities who are displaced or affected by the crisis. So we have longstanding partnerships with a range of organisations that have over many years built the networks and capacity, often in very difficult environments, to negotiate access in conflict situations. So our long-term partnerships through the core funding we provide to organisations like the World Food Programme and UNHCR and specific earmarked funding at times is critical to that. The minister also announced at the last budget a new multiyear funding commitment to Syria of $220 million, which was really to acknowledge that this is a crisis that is not going to go away tomorrow. It really allows us to work with both countries and partners to develop a more comprehensive and strategic approach to dealing with the crisis.

Senator FAWCETT: Just before we go to specifics, I want to look at the programmatic and governance level. Often when there is a crisis and lots of people, different contributors put money into a situation. There is lots of goodwill, and we recognise it is a difficult place to work. It is my experience that there is also often lots of inefficiency. How are you measuring the efficiency of the programs being run? I do not know whether you can measure value for money when it comes to these sort of situations. How are you basically doing your due diligence that the money we are investing on behalf of the taxpayer is put to the best use in getting outcomes for these people?

Mr Isbister : It is a very strong focus for us in terms of dealing with obviously the growing humanitarian crisis. There are a number of ways that I will touch on it. As you probably know, in May this year there was a world humanitarian summit. It was the first time there was a global summit to look at some of the increasing humanitarian challenges and how donors and humanitarian agencies respond to them. One of the strong focuses was how to align resources most effectively to need. That is your point about efficiency and value for money. One of the outcomes of that summit was the striking of what was called the grand bargain between the top donors and top agencies. Minister Fierravanti-Wells was there for the launch of the grand bargain at the summit. One of its primary focuses is coming to an agreement about how the expectations collective donors had—so the weight of not just one, but all of us, the top 15 together—were about cutting duplication and better aligning cooperation resources. With that, the quid pro quo was that donors would look at trying to provide some longer term funding and certainty into funding into the future. One of the challenges with efficiency can be dollars just coming and going and people not being able to plan for that.

I mentioned the Syria commitment. The Prime Minister, also at the refugee summit, announced a new multifunding arrangement on refugees. There are a number of the factors from our side around the efficiencies with agencies. This is an area we are continuing to push for. An example is the move towards much more targeted cash programs for refugees in countries like Lebanon and Jordan. In the past, agencies would provide quite costly models of delivery of food or large refugee shelter arrangements or water and sanitation. Now, collectively agencies are providing much more targeted cash programs that allow refugee families themselves to decide how they are going to use the money in terms of paying for education fees for children or purchasing food. With that, the costs have dramatically come down in terms of overheads for agencies in actually running operations.

So there is a way to go with it, but I think there is a positive message that has emerged over the last 12 and 18 months. Particularly I am optimistic with some of the grand bargain outcomes that this will be something with donors and with the NGOs and big 10 agencies we will be continuing to push for.

Mr McDonald : I will add to that. I think you touched on two things that are particularly important. One is access. When we are talking about efficiency, it is no use giving money to agencies that are not getting access in. So that is a really important one for us. The other is picking up on Mr Isbister's comment around the Fiji cyclone and it being country-led. There is a question about some of the UN agencies and efficiency and what need they have where there is a country-led intervention. So that for us is really important. So we are pushing those through our high-level consultations and the like to say, 'In the system, the demands are so great, we need to find efficiencies within that system.' There are some different arrangements that mean it is not just about the agency. It is much broader than that and we need to think about it differently. So I think they are some of the outcomes of the grand bargain that are important for us.

Senator Fierravanti-Wells: One of the important outcomes out of Cyclone Fiji in particular was the fact that the Fijian government coordinated the response through their disaster management framework. Australia responded as we were required and asked for different things. One issue we have seen is that often when disasters hit, countries do want to help. What we do not want is a situation where aid goes to countries and then potentially ends up sitting on the wharfs and is another burden on those countries when it is not dispersed appropriately. So Fiji served as a very important example of how the response was very good.

Having visited Fiji on a number of occasions recently, the gratitude of the Fijian government and the Fijian people to our commitment in Fiji has certainly been both publicly and privately expressed to me. I think we have seen some of the comments that Prime Minister Bainimarama has made during his visit to Australia in recent days. That gratitude has been extended to us publicly and privately, certainly to me by the Prime Minister and other ministers of the Fijian government. So it has really been a very good lesson.

Fiji has lent support to the disaster framework that was agreed as part of the Pacific Islands Forum. Recently the members of the Pacific Islands Forum agreed to a regional disaster risk reduction and management framework, which in itself will now provide a very good framework, I think, for countries in the Pacific—countries like Australia. We are very supportive and we very much pushed for it. I think it will provide a good framework for countries in the Pacific as we approach the next weather season and other seasons in the future. But preparedness is very, very important, and that is really where we are coming from.

Senator FAWCETT: Thank you. Chair, I know you are trying to wind me up. Mr Innes-Brown has made the journey from the back of the room to the table so I would like to get his input on what measures we are taking to make sure that the aid we are giving to those countries surrounding Syria and northern Iraq is getting to girls, to women and to minorities that are perhaps not the strongest in the communities there.

Mr Innes-Brown : As Mr Isbister has said, we choose our partners carefully—the ones we know have a good track record of implementing aid in the right places. As he said, a key component of our Syria response is the forthcoming $220 million package. The key component, as well as providing humanitarian assistance inside Syria and also in Jordan and Lebanon, and interesting feature is that it is a multiyear component. We are going to be building resilience, which was a key feature of the conference that happened in London in February, where the international community got together to get a more strategic approach to helping these countries over the medium term. So we are going to be providing assistance in education and in livelihoods to not only support the Syrian refugees in those countries but also vulnerable communities which often surround them. So we are developing that project as we speak. Most recently in Iraq, since the crisis began, we have dispersed $60 million to reliable partners to help with the conditions there. This week, we announced another $10 million, so that brings it to a total of $70 million.

Senator FAWCETT: And that $10 million was specifically looking at the Mosul operation?

Mr Innes-Brown : Well, it was in response to that, yes.

Senator MOORE: I am interested in the $220 million.

Mr Innes-Brown : The $220 million is for Syria.

Senator MOORE: That is not included?

Mr Innes-Brown : No. That is okay.

Senator MOORE: It is a bit slow to see exactly how they accumulate.

Mr Innes-Brown : So for Syria, we have given $213 million since 2011.

Senator MOORE: Yes. I have that.

Mr Innes-Brown : We have committed another $220 million, which has not been spent yet. For Iraq, we have spent another $60 million since 2014. We have just made an announcement of another $10 million.

Senator MOORE: Which is separate to everything. It is brand new money?

Mr Innes-Brown : Yes. That is right.

Senator MOORE: Okay.

Mr Innes-Brown : So the new money will go to humanitarian assistance—shelter, food and that sort of thing—but also for helping women and girls who have been affected by the conflict. It is helping them with a variety of issues.

Senator MOORE: I am trying to get my head around these figures. My understanding was that the $10 million was particularly for Mosul?

Mr Innes-Brown : That is right.

Senator MOORE: So that is particularly for Mosul. So it is not for general. That was the media release. I have the $10 million, but that is in its own little box.

Mr Innes-Brown : Yes.

Senator REYNOLDS: I have one issue that I would like to raise before the officials leave. I suspect I have a question that is relevant to both of you. However, you might like to stretch your legs. The issue I want to raise with you is something I have raised with the minister before, and that is the emerging issue internationally of what they call paper orphans in sham orphanages. It came to my attention when I visited the embassy in Cambodia in January this year with Save the Children. In that visit to Cambodia, it became very clear that there are increasing numbers of orphanages spreading all around the world, but predominantly in South-East Asia, Africa and South America. The nub of the message from the ambassador, Burrows, was that DFAT has stopped funding those sorts of organisations because they simply cannot tell which ones are real and which ones are not.

It is closely linked with something that is now referred to as 'voluntourism', where large numbers of Australians and people from many other countries with all of the best intentions go overseas and, doing little or no due diligence, go and support these sorts of facilities. In Cambodia alone, we were told that there are over 500 of these largely unregulated institutions unregistered with the state. There are no proper checks and there is no authority or training to deal with children.

Since looking into this, it has become very clear that this is an international issue and that there are transnational crime elements. According to UNICEF, over 85 per cent of the children in these facilities around the world have living parents, but a number of them are trafficked. That is why they are called paper orphans; they are given false documentation. They are trained to perform for tourists. Very unsuspecting Australians who go there and think they are doing good, take a lot of Facebook photos, provide money and establish a relationship with them. It is a very long introduction to this question, but I think there are a number of issues.

It is clear internationally that there is recognition of the problem, but it does fall between a number of jurisdictions and between law enforcement domestically. There is the transnational criminal aspect to it in terms of trafficking and the exploitation of children. A lot of these children are actually there for sexual exploitation purposes. I raised this with the minister before the election and this week with the AFP commissioner. That was a very long preamble. Is the department here in Canberra aware of this general issue of sham orphanages?

Mr Isbister : Yes. We are aware of it. There is the risk of orphanages being established overseas and under false purposes and then being at times utilised. When the Australian government uses the Australian aid program, in a sense, we are very rigorous in who we fund and how we fund. We have a rigorous accreditation process for all NGOs that we fund. There are processes for looking at child protection. It looks at the objectives of agencies and is very much focussed on development outcomes and not short-term or simple ongoing welfare agendas. We also support volunteers overseas. The placement of volunteers is very rigorous in terms of the purpose and objectives of the placement of them. More broadly, I guess a role the Australian government can have in some sense is through our partnership with ACFID, the Australian Council for International Development. They have a code of conduct and are very clear in emphasising the code and expectations of any Australian NGO operating overseas and what guides their approaches. So in terms of what we are able to do to manage the Australian aid program and guidance we give NGOs, we are very focussed on this issue and have been for some time. I will leave it there.

Senator REYNOLDS: Thank you. I understand from the tax department that there are several thousand, from recollection, registered charities here in Australia specifically raising money to support those sorts of facilities not just in Cambodia but worldwide. If they are not actually a registered NGO, have you got any oversight in terms of their activities overseas?

Mr Isbister : As you know, there was the establishment of the ACNC, the Australian Commission for Not-for-profit Charities. With that, any agency that is working and operating overseas or raising taxable funds has to comply with the standards of the ACNC, which includes aspects of child protection. As I mentioned, we run two programs. One of them is funding NGOs and the accreditation process that we run. The second one is what is called the OAGDS status, which is the tax deductibility status for other charities. Again, that is a process where we look at what processes agencies need to go through to get tax deductibility, including issues around child protection. But with the establishment of the ACNC, we are currently now working with them to look at how we strengthen the codes, requirements and compliance and then investigations when issues emerge under the legislation of the ACNC.

Senator REYNOLDS: Thank you. That is very good to hear. Is it possible on notice to provide the committee with more information about that process of your work with them and about where that is going forward in terms of compliance checking and auditing to make sure that they are doing the right thing? Would you mind taking that on notice?

Mr Isbister : Yes. We can take that on notice.

Senator REYNOLDS: Thank you.

CHAIR: This is your last question.

Senator REYNOLDS: Yes. The last question. The next aspect of this is in terms of the knowledge and experience you have just outlined to the committee in dealing with NGOs who deal with children in these facilities. In my experience, and even just in WA, there are so many service groups—church groups and school groups—that go over and support these facilities with very little due diligence. Again, take this on notice. You have a fantastic Smartraveller site and information. Is it possible to do a similar thing for being a smart volunteer? People need to do their due diligence. Are they registered? Have they got the relevant certification to deal with children? How long are they keeping the children in the facilities? Do they have contact with the parents? Are they community based programs? So all of those things would be able to be much more visible. I know there is some information, but it is really hard to find.

Mr McDonald : On that, Senator, I think we can. We have information on the website on the accredited NGOs and the like and the process we go through to accredit them. So I think there is an opportunity to look at those links to make it easier to find, because we do want people to know those NGOs that are accredited and how they are accredited and the volunteer organisations.

Senator REYNOLDS: And something that MPs could share around their own electorates to say, 'If you're considering volunteering, these are the things you need to think about.'

Mr McDonald : Yes.

Senator REYNOLDS: So you are not actually inadvertently paying people traffickers.

Mr McDonald : Yes. And that is the idea of our accreditation.

Senator WONG: Given the time, I am going to try to skip through a few things. I had a series of questions in relation to the Philippines and the fatal shootings. Are you able to put on notice your answers to the following questions.

CHAIR: Senator Wong, just before you go—this is relevant to you directly; you will be delighted to learn this—the secretary has a little statement she wants to make to you, and then you can make your mind up whether you want to continue on the line of questions you have.

Senator WONG: Oh, dear. Good or bad?

CHAIR: No. It is all good for you.

Ms Adamson : It is not that sort of statement, Senator Wong. You asked this morning a number of questions about the cancellation of the Long Tan commemoration service. I now have answers to five of them. We are still working to confirm details to answer the remaining questions. I am happy to read them out to you. Alternatively, we can provide them and you can continue. It is up to you.

Senator WONG: Can we table them and then I will come back to them if we need to? Is that possible?

Ms Adamson : Sure. I am happy to do that.

Senator WONG: Thank you, Chair.

CHAIR: Continue, Senator Wong. Thank you.

Senator WONG: Philippines? Given the timeframe, I might just ask you to take this on notice. Is the department monitoring the reports of fatal shootings by police and others in the Philippines? Have concerns been raised with the Philippines government? I know that the minister has made some public comments. Does the department agree with the assessment of a range of human rights groups that the policy amounts to judicial executions of suspected drug dealers and users? What other representations has the department or the government made? I am fine with them being taken on notice if you are all right with that, Secretary?

Ms Adamson : I am happy to take them on notice, but Mr Cox has stepped up to the table.

Senator WONG: I am trying to get through a range of topics; that is all. I just wanted to flag them with you, and you can give me the answers.

Mr Cox : All right, fine. Okay.

Senator WONG: The next is a question. I want to follow up on the UNSG issue. I think there has been evidence of a letter to Mr Turnbull on 1 April.

Mr McDonald : The first of May. I think you are right.

Senator WONG: There was a letter from Mr Rudd to the Prime Minister requesting nomination in April. This is what has been reported publicly. Are you able to tell me whether or not DFAT was aware of that letter?

Mr McDonald : The 4 April letter?

Senator WONG: Yes.

Mr McDonald : Yes. We were. We were advised on 5 April.

Senator WONG: And what occurred as a result of receiving that?

Mr McDonald : We provided a briefing to the foreign minister.

Senator WONG: And was any communication from the foreign minister to the Prime Minister undertaken?

Mr McDonald : Not that I am aware of. I am happy to take that on notice.

Senator WONG: What did you understand that letter to say?

Mr McDonald : The letter of 4 April was a letter to the Prime Minister from Kevin Rudd asking to be nominated. That is the 4 April letter. Is that the one?

Senator WONG: Yes, it is. Can someone explain to me how, if that is the case, when the Prime Minister was asked in May whether or not there was a request for nomination, he said when the matter was live it would be considered? Was it not live from the date of receipt of that letter?

Mr McDonald : Minister—

Senator WONG: Senator.

Mr McDonald : My apologies. Senator.

Senator WONG: I would quite like to be. We have got some work to do before that happens.

Mr McDonald : I am still remembering when you were a minister, I am sorry.

Senator WONG: I cannot remember what I did with you, but anyway.

Mr McDonald : You looked after the finances, I think.

Senator WONG: I know. I am just trying to remember what I did to you.

Mr McDonald : Everyone knows the finance minister.

Senator Fierravanti-Wells: I do not think he means that in a positive way.

Senator WONG: Can we get back to this?

Mr McDonald : My apologies. Senator, I think you discussed this in the Prime Minister and Cabinet estimates the other day. That is where that question should be directed.

Senator WONG: Did you understand it to be live at that point, the question of the nomination?

Mr McDonald : I did not have any understanding at that point. I can simply talk about what I knew at the time, which was the letter that was provided to the Prime Minister on 4 April.

Senator WONG: I have one more question on Mr Hockey, which I neglected. I also want to talk about some reporting about the nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament process. I am not sure if Senator Ludlam has already asked questions while I have been out. So I am flagging that, Secretary, because I will come to it after this. It was reported that Mr Hockey did not attend a counterterrorism meeting which was attended by Ms Bishop and Minister Payne in Washington on or around, I think, 21 July 2016. Could someone talk to me about this? Someone is leaving the table but nobody is attending the table.

Ms Adamson : I just want to make sure that we are talking about the same thing. Did you say you had a date for that?

Senator WONG: It is 21 July 2016.

Ms Adamson : And the question was?

Senator WONG: Can you confirm what has been publicly reported—that ministers Payne and Bishop visited Washington for the counter-ISIL coalition and foreign and defence ministers meeting on 21 July 2016 and Mr Hockey was not in attendance?

Ms Adamson : I am aware that both senators, as you said, visited Washington in July. The point that I have is that ministers Bishop and Payne were met by senior officials of the embassy, which for us is a standard practice in some circumstances.

Senator WONG: Some circumstances?

Ms Adamson : As to the question, that was a question specifically in response to a greeting on the party's arrival. But Mr Hackett, who is acting first assistant secretary of the Americas division and may know more about the broader element of your question, has just joined us.

Mr Hackett : Senator, I am not aware of the detail of that. But I can check that out.

Senator WONG: Sure. In Mr Hockey's absence, did someone else from the embassy attend that meeting with the ministers?

Ms Adamson : Mark Innes-Brown can help us with that because it is within his subject area.

Mr Innes-Brown : There were more junior officials from the embassy. The defence attaché was there in attendance with Senator Payne. We had another official from the political section with Minister Bishop's delegation. The numbers at the event were restricted for each delegate.

Senator WONG: Fair enough. But you have your minister and the defence minister. It is pretty unusual, from my experience, for the head of mission not to be in attendance when you have the foreign minister in the country let alone the foreign minister and the defence minister.

Ms Adamson : With respect, Senator, in large posts, for the senior heads of mission with a wide range of other matters to deal with, it is not that unusual.

Senator WONG: Do you know where he was?

Ms Adamson : I do not know where he was.

Senator WONG: Do you know where he was, Mr Hackett?

Mr Hackett : No.

Senator WONG: Well, it was reported that it was he was listening to Mr Trump at the Republican convention.

Ms Adamson : And, on that matter, it would be expected that our heads of mission in countries such as the United States—I realise that the United States is almost sui generis—would be expected to cover those sorts of events.

Senator WONG: On notice, how long was the ambassador at the Republican convention? How long was he at the Democratic convention? What are the sideline meetings he held at each convention?

Ms Adamson : I am happy to take those on notice.

Senator WONG: Thank you very much. I will move on. I think I said to you I wanted to talk about nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament. I apologise if some of these questions were asked while I was out. I am not sure. There is the open-ended working group on multilateral disarmament negotiations. I want to ask questions about a meeting on 19 September 2016. Can you tell me the government's position on the proposal to launch multilateral negotiations for a treaty prohibiting nuclear weapons?

Mr Sadleir : As I mentioned earlier, Australia's position is that we do not support a ban treaty. We are going to vote against the forthcoming resolution in respect of calling for a ban treaty.

Senator WONG: The government does not support a ban treaty?

Mr Sadleir : That is correct.

Senator WONG: I apologise. Was I out when someone was asking this? Senator Rhiannon?

CHAIR: No.

Senator WONG: I am going to ask you a couple more questions because I am a Labor Party person, not a Green, so I hope you do not mind.

Mr Sadleir : Sure.

Senator WONG: Can you articulate why?

Mr Sadleir : Yes.

Senator WONG: Is it the NPT argument?

Mr Sadleir : Several arguments, Senator. First of all, the treaty will not include the nuclear weapons states or states which possess nuclear weapons. Secondly, it is disconnected from the existing security environment.

Senator WONG: What does that mean?

Mr Sadleir : That means that the global trends are such that it is not an auspicious time to be pushing for a treaty of this sort. Indeed, in order to be able to effectively carry forward disarmament, you need to have a world in which there is not a threat of nuclear weapons and people feel safe and secure. We are in a period where, for example, the threatening behaviour of the DPRK means that nuclear deterrence and, in the case of Australia, extended nuclear deterrence is extremely important. Would you like me to keep going?

Senator WONG: You said there were, I think, five. Is that what you said?

Mr Sadleir : I said there was a number. Yes, we are concerned about the risks of damaging the NPT on a number of levels, including by creating parallel obligations and ambiguity and confusion about those obligations. We are also concerned that it will deepen divisions between nuclear and nonnuclear weapons states, bearing in mind that there will not be any participating in the ban. Finally, a ban does not envisage any verification measures to ensure compliance, so there is a real challenge there.

Senator WONG: Is there anywhere in the government, other than in your answers in estimates, where this petition has been articulated by the minister or by a member of the government?

Mr Sadleir : The foreign minister made remarks on a ban treaty some time ago. I believe I have that reference here. Just bear with me for a moment.

Senator WONG: But not subsequent to this vote? Correct?

Mr Sadleir : Senator, I would have to check that and get back to you.

Senator WONG: Are you getting back to me on both propositions, or are you still looking for the other one?

Mr Sadleir : Sorry. I am still looking for the other document. I am sorry, Senator. Just bear with me for a moment. I will get back to you on both.

Senator WONG: Okay. Did we move to force a vote?

Mr Sadleir : Yes. Australia, along with 13 other countries.

Senator WONG: Thirteen?

Mr Sadleir : Yes. That is correct. So Australia, along with Belgium, Italy, Poland, the Republic of Korea, Bulgaria, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Romania, Slovakia and Turkey. All of those countries indicated that they could not agree with the text at that time. Subsequently, there was a vote in which 22 countries voted against and there were 13 abstentions. I can read out the list of those who voted against, if you would like.

Senator WONG: Could you provide that on notice, given the time?

Mr Sadleir : Yes.

Senator WONG: Did that result in an amendment being moved to change a key sentence in the report from 'the working group recognised that there was a recommendation which received widespread support' to 'the working group recommended with widespread support an amendment which was carried'?

Mr Sadleir : There was a subsequent Guatemalan amendment, which we would be happy to provide on notice.

Senator WONG: Is it in those terms? This is how it was reported. You can comment on it. Australia moved with a number of other countries to request a vote, which then resulted in a stronger amendment being supported by the group. That is how it has been put?

Mr Sadleir : There was already language under the draft agreed recommendations section of the report which was recommendatory in nature.

Senator WONG: 'Recognised that there was a recommendation which received wide support' which then became 'the working group recommended with widespread support'.

Mr Sadleir : There was a slight hardening of the text afterwards.

Senator WONG: Thank you.

Mr Sadleir : But the original text was not acceptable to us and a number of states.

Senator WONG: But it ended up being harder language?

Mr Sadleir : After the call for vote, there was a tightening of the language. But, as I said, both sets of language were unacceptable.

Senator WONG: The report has gone to the UN General Assembly. Is that the process?

Mr Sadleir : Yes. So where we are at now is there is actually a first committee resolution which will be coming to a vote in the week beginning 26 October, or in the period from 26 October to 2 November. That resolution in effect picks up the recommendation for a ban treaty.

Senator WONG: In terms of the NPT framework, is there any evidence that you can point me to that demonstrates that that framework is in fact a living significant progress towards disarmament?

Mr Sadleir : Yes, there is. It is a slow, difficult process. Indeed, of course, next year there will be another NPT review process.

Senator WONG: And the NPT review process last year failed to reach agreement. Correct?

Mr Sadleir : It did do some very good work, but it did not reach agreement. Our position is that the NPT process is the main game. It is important to maintain and preserve its ongoing viability. The concern is that a ban treaty at this point will actually be counterproductive. First of all, it will, as I said before, create parallel obligations and ambiguity. Secondly, it will divert resources and attention away from the NPT.

Senator WONG: This is going back to the list you gave me at the start. I understand that is your argument. I want to understand the government's substantive position. Is the position that there should be nuclear disarmament and there are other ways, such as the NPT path and other criteria which are required in order to achieve that, such as verification and so forth, or is it the government's position that disarmament is not desirable or achievable?

Mr Sadleir : No. It is the former.

Senator WONG: Thank you for that. Mr Ruddock is still the special envoy. Is that right?

Mr McDonald : He is, yes.

Senator WONG: How many others do we have? Just the one?

Mr McDonald : Yes.

Senator WONG: Because Mr Rudd retired.

Mr McDonald : A good question. Dr Strahan would be best to answer it.

Dr Strahan : I just did that changeover. Would you mind repeating the exact question?

Senator WONG: Is Mr Ruddock still the special envoy?

Dr Strahan : He is indeed.

Senator WONG: Are there any other special envoys?

Dr Strahan : In the field of human rights, no.

Senator WONG: Within the portfolio.

Dr Strahan : We have also reporting to my division the ambassador for women and girls, who performs a very similar role.

Senator WONG: That is it?

Mr McDonald : We have an ambassador as well, I think, for HIV-AIDS and TB.

Ms Adamson : But there are no others in the portfolio who carry the title special envoy.

Senator WONG: You provided a question on notice answer 167 to Senator McEwen. You provided some details in that of travel by Mr Ruddock. Can you update that?

Dr Strahan : Yes, I can. Since Mr Ruddock took up his position, he has travelled five times for us. He went to Geneva in February and March this year. He then went to East Africa between 12 and 24 April. He then attended the world death penalty abolition Congress in Oslo between 21 and 23 June. He then attended the CARICOM in Guyana between 2 and 7 July this year. Most recently, he finished a trip to southern Africa between 9 and 14 October.

Senator WONG: What is the term of his appointment?

Dr Strahan : The term will last until the vote on our Human Rights Council bid, which is in October 2017, so in about a year.

Senator WONG: Who does he report to?

Dr Strahan : He reports to the foreign minister and he works closely with me and the other staff of my division who handle human rights.

Senator WONG: Does he provide written reports?

Dr Strahan : No. He does not. We have departmental officers who travel with him. It is the job of the departmental officers to provide the written reports. If he makes a statement, he will frequently adjust that statement himself in consultation with us. But he does not do written reports at the end of each trip. Nor does our ambassador for women and girls. We do not see that as part of the function of these particular figures.

Senator WONG: How many meetings since his appointment has Mr Ruddock had with the foreign minister to update her on what he is doing? You might need to take that on notice.

Dr Strahan : I think I will have to take it on notice, yes.

Senator WONG: Can you also tell me what his forward travel plans are on notice?

Dr Strahan : No. I can actually tell you now.

Senator WONG: Okay.

Dr Strahan : We have another trip scheduled for Mr Ruddock in to Africa. The details of which countries exactly he would visit likely in November have not yet been specified. But what we are doing is looking at countries which are important to us for the Human Rights Council campaign and where we either want to reinforce a pledge of a vote or to seek a new pledge.

Senator WONG: Who sets his travel priorities, though? Is that you, or does he also have a say in where he goes?

Dr Strahan : He has some say, but I must say as the responsible division head and being responsible for our Human Rights Council campaign, working with my colleagues, we work out where we can best deploy him in terms of reinforcing existing pledges or seeking new pledges. But we do consult him as well. I will also consult our geographic divisions to make sure that we are getting the right impact in the right countries at the right time.

Senator WONG: Can you tell me what remuneration and entitlements he receives?

Dr Strahan : Yes. He is on exactly the same package as the ambassador for women and girls, which is an SES band 2 rate. He is only paid for the days that he is engaged, so it is not a full-time arrangement. So it is only when he travels with us.

Senator WONG: And travel entitlements?

Dr Strahan : He gets the normal travel entitlements when he travels.

Senator WONG: Could you provide them on notice?

Dr Strahan : Yes.

Senator WONG: Given that he would be in receipt of a parliamentary pension, is there any reduction of his pension to reflect the earnings from this position?

Dr Strahan : Legal advice was sought on that matter. The legal advice that we were given is that because he bears title of envoy, it does not have an impact on his pension.

Senator WONG: He gets double pay—that is very convenient—because he has a title?

Dr Strahan : I gather it is not linked to the title.

Senator WONG: Sorry. I thought that was your evidence.

Dr Strahan : It is the type of title, if I understand the legal advice we were given.

Senator WONG: When did you get that advice?

Dr Strahan : When we presented him with a contract to engage him again, he actually sought advice off his own bat about his pension.

Senator WONG: When was that?

Dr Strahan : That was about five or six weeks ago.

Senator WONG: So he is appointed special envoy while he is in parliament. Is that right?

Dr Strahan : And during that period he was not paid but just covered with travel expenses.

Senator WONG: And then you present him with a contract post the election and he goes and gets advice as to whether or not there is any reduction in his pension. You have to say yes.

Dr Strahan : Yes.

Senator WONG: Nodding does not work.

Dr Strahan : Sorry.

Senator WONG: I am not saying you have to say yes.

Dr Strahan : I thought it was rhetorical.

Senator WONG: I think they cannot report witness nods. Did you receive advice as well?

Dr Strahan : I would have to consult my team about which additional steps we took, so I will have to take that on notice.

Senator WONG: So he sought legal advice as to whether or not his pension needed to be reduced?

Dr Strahan : What I will do is take on notice exactly how the legal advice was sought. I do not want to verbal Mr Ruddock or ourselves.

Senator WONG: But the net result is he gets paid both his pension and, without reduction, gets paid taxpayers' money for his position as a special envoy?

Dr Strahan : That is the legal advice that we received.

Senator WONG: It is bizarre, because I always understood—and my recollection is—when we appointed former parliamentarians to various positions on boards of GBEs or CAC entities or whatever, their pension was reduced to reflect their payment for those positions. So how does he get around it?

Dr Strahan : All that I can say is that the legal advice that we were given was along those lines.

Mr McDonald : I think we should take that on notice and give you a full answer to that question.

Senator WONG: Yes. You probably should. I would like to understand on what basis it occurs, what the rule is and how the rule is varied for the purposes of this appointment.

Mr McDonald : Yes. I will take that on notice.

Senator WONG: I asked a question on notice which has not been answered as yet in the chamber in relation to the Women Deliver Global Conference in Copenhagen in May 2016. Can you tell me who from the government or the parliament attended that conference?

Dr Strahan : From memory, our representative was former senator Natasha Stott Despoja, our ambassador for women and girls.

Senator WONG: Was there any other parliamentarian in attendance?

Dr Strahan : I would have to take that on notice.

Senator WONG: Really?

Dr Strahan : I know that former Prime Minister Gillard was present. But if other parliamentarians were present, off the top of my head, I do not recall.

Mr McDonald : I just did not quite catch which conference.

Senator WONG: The Women Deliver Global Conference held from 16 to 19 May in Copenhagen.

Mr McDonald : Sorry, I cannot either.

Dr Strahan : I will take that on notice.

Senator WONG: Was Dr Sharman Stone in attendance? Was she assisted in any way by the department?

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

Senator WONG: There is paper flying everywhere. I will just sit back and wait.

Senator Fierravanti-Wells: Just before going back to Mr Ruddock, we will also take on notice former senator Stott Despoja because, as a former member of parliament, she—

Senator WONG: Well, I did not ask that question. If I wish—

Senator Fierravanti-Wells: No. But I am just saying—

Senator WONG: Well, he is not taking it on notice. If you want to put that on the public record, it is a matter for you. I only asked about one of them.

Senator Fierravanti-Wells: No. But I suspect that they are in a similar position. But we will take the whole issue on notice.

Mr McDonald : Senator, I think we should take that on notice and come back to you quickly with an answer to that. I understand the two. Sharman Stone and other parliamentarians.

Senator WONG: Or any other parliamentarian. And what assistance, if any, was provided by the department?

Mr McDonald : Yes. We will come back to you quickly with an answer.

Senator WONG: Thank you. I have a quick question on the New Colombo Plan and the selection process. As I understand them, the program guidelines say DFAT and the Department of Education and Training shortlist applicants. Applicants are then interviewed and program delegates approve final scholarship outcomes based on the advice of the interview panels. Is that right?

Mr Tranter : That is correct.

Senator WONG: Can you tell me who are the nongovernment members of the interview panels in each completed NCP round?

Mr Tranter : It varies. We have just completed the selection panel process for the 2017 round. There were eight selection panels that cover different geographic regions. I chaired one of those panels for the Pacific and South-West Asia. On the panel that I chaired, there were two business representatives and a representative of the department of education and training. That was a typical composition of the panels across each of those places.

Senator WONG: What I would like is the names of all the nongovernment members for each completed NCP round.

Mr Tranter : We can provide that to you on notice.

Senator WONG: That is fine. Who are the program delegates? Is that like a FAS?

Mr Tranter : It is a deputy secretary from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and a deputy secretary from the Department of Education and Training.

Senator WONG: Has there ever been an occasion where the program delegate is anyone other than a deputy secretary of one of those two departments?

Mr Tranter : Not to my recollection. All decisions on selections have been made by senior officials, not ministers. But I will take on notice whether it has been an SES band 3 officer.

Senator WONG: And are there occasions on which the program delegate's decision is at variance with the recommendations of the interview panel?

Mr Tranter : Not to my knowledge, but I will take that on notice.

Senator WONG: I do not want names.

Mr Tranter : Sure. I understand.

Senator WONG: Is there or has there been any ministerial involvement in the outcomes of this process?

Mr Tranter : Decisions on selections are taken by officials.

Senator WONG: So that means no?

Mr Tranter : Not to my knowledge, yes.

Senator WONG: I will throw to my colleague.

CHAIR: I would like to ask about the New Colombo Plan. I want to continue with a couple of questions. Thank you, Mr Tranter. They are these. The level of engagement, please, between the New Colombo Plan and the private sector, particularly in the countries where students are on exchange.

Mr Tranter : There is strong interest and involvement of the private sector. That is evidenced in a couple of characteristics of the scheme. We have appointed 10 business advocates for the New Colombo Plan who are taking a role in deepening knowledge of the program amongst the Australian business community. With business we have established the internship and mentorship online portal in 24 host locations, which has seen over 200 businesses sign up to offer to play a role as part of hosting New Colombo Plan scholars and mobility students. To date, many New Colombo Plan scholars and mobility students are being hosted by business as part of internships or mentorships.

CHAIR: Do you mean once they have returned to Australia?

Mr Tranter : No. As part of their program of study.

CHAIR: Whilst they are overseas. Yes, good.

Mr Tranter : For scholarships, 92 per cent of scholars have completed at least one internship as part of their NCP experience with organisations such as Telstra, Mallesons, NAB, QBE and Mitsui. In the case of mobility students, around 60 per cent of students have had a placement with an organisation. In many cases, that has been with a private sector organisation.

CHAIR: Are you conducting any formal surveys with students who have participated in the program six months or a year after they have completed? If so, what feedback are you able to report to the committee?

Mr Tranter : We do carry out surveys as part of our evaluation of the program. That is conducted by ACIL Allen as part of an independent evaluation program. In the most recent survey, 85 per cent of mobility and 96 per cent of scholarship survey respondents reported greater Asia capability, which is measured in terms of their understanding, confidence and knowledge of the region. Ninety-six per cent of mobility students and 100 per cent of scholarship respondents reported more enthusiasm for engaging with Asia. And 100 per cent of participants reported that their knowledge and understanding of their host location had been improved. That is an evaluation that will continue through the course of this.

CHAIR: And it will be made available?

Mr Tranter : And it will be made available.

CHAIR: Time is against us, so I will be brief. The secretariat, the NCP secretariat, do you provide any additional support or networking once the students have returned to Australia?

Mr Tranter : We do. We have launched a comprehensive alumni program in four states, I believe. The minister will launch a Queensland chapter next week at QUT. I think we have had around 6,000 students who have signed up to the alumni program. That is an initiative that we intend to continue through the course of the NCP.

CHAIR: Perhaps to the secretary rather than to you, Mr Tranter: is there any proposal to extend the New Colombo Plan beyond Asia? I have made pleas in relation to Mexico. Almost each country I go to and speak to parliamentary or government officials, they express huge enthusiasm for the New Colombo Plan.

Ms Adamson : It is certainly the case that the success of the New Colombo Plan has been noticed throughout the region and, indeed, beyond the immediate region. There are no plans to extend it at this stage. I will add to the point that Mr Tranter made earlier in response to your question about the business community. From my own recent experience in China, I can assure you that the Australian chambers of commerce in China, that Australian companies generally fully recognise the value of the scheme and are keen to be part of it. Even if they were not able to offer individual internships, they were prepared through the chamber to lend active support. So the successes are building on successes. But I think what we want to do is to continue to deepen it around its original purpose in our region.

CHAIR: Thank you.

Senator WONG: You were going to see, Secretary or Mr Fisher, if you could get me the costs associated with that Paris conference before the end of the day. How have we gone on that front?

Mr Fisher : We are making progress.

Senator WONG: That is a very diplomatic answer.

Mr Fisher : Because we want to get this right, I would prefer to give them on notice if that were possible. That is certainly how I would like to take them—on notice—and provide you with them on notice.

Senator WONG: Are you able to at least tell me the categories of costs?

Mr Fisher : I can indeed tell you the categories of costs. There is obviously travel. So there are travel costs associated with it. There are accommodation costs. There are allowance costs when the lunch or meal was not being supplied. For instance, in Paris, the breakfasts were supplied in at least the main hotel we used so that was not a cost. It was a built-in cost. Then there are the costs of holding the conference. Again, we supplied some lunch. Again, staff will not seek allowances for those lunches and so on. There were costs of equipment—pens and markers and stationery and that sort of thing—and some furniture as well. My recall is the venue had been not gutted but it certainly was not in quite the working order so we had to provide a little bit of hire furniture to make it able to be used for a conference.

Senator WONG: Okay. So you will come back to me on all of those?

Mr Fisher : We will come back on notice, yes, Senator.

Mr McDonald : Senator, can I respond to your question?

Senator WONG: Which one?

Mr McDonald : The one on the empowering women conference in Copenhagen. You asked whether other members of parliament had attended. Sharman Stone did attend in a private capacity. That is the only one.

Senator WONG: Was there facilitation or something provided?

Mr McDonald : No.

Senator WONG: Nothing provided by DFAT?

Mr McDonald : I will definitely check, but my advice is no.

Senator WONG: Thank you for that.

CHAIR: Thank you, Mr McDonald.

Senator MOORE: I have some questions about assistance provided by DFAT staff in India for the business delegation led by the former trade minister, Mr Robb, in January 2015 for Australia Business Week in India.

Ms Adamson : Ms Klugman can help with the answer to that question.

Senator MOORE: She is coming forward, yes. Did DFAT staff provide business representatives on that delegation with any assistance during their stay in India?

Ms Klugman : The Australian Business Week in India was a large enterprise involving a very large number of Australian business people, several Australian ministers and a few different locations in India. It is organised by Austrade, so for the detail on what support facilitation and assistance was provided, I would refer you to Austrade.

Senator WONG: Facilitation at airports et cetera, though, would still be this portfolio. Can you answer that part of Senator Moore's question?

Ms Klugman : With the facilitation at the airport, the way we handle visits like this, it would have been a whole of mission, or a whole of high commission, in New Delhi's case, enterprise. There would have been staff from across the mission who were designated to undertake different parts of the facilitation for what was a set of meetings and visits associated with some ministerial travel. All of that was coordinated, as I said, by Austrade.

Senator MOORE: Coordinated and funded by Austrade?

Ms Klugman : That is my understanding.

Senator MOORE: So on any kind of travel and any kind of movement to and from airports, anything of that nature, I should ask Austrade?

Ms Klugman : You should ask Austrade.

Senator WONG: I have had this issue before. I do not want us to get to 9.30 at night asking Austrade when they will say, 'You should have asked the department, the cross-portfolio et cetera.' What we are trying to understand is who from the post. We want to understand what the post did for people—facilitation, airports, those sorts of things. So we want that detail.

Ms Adamson : We are genuinely trying to be helpful. My assumption—but it is an assumption—is that the business week in India was organised by Austrade along the same lines as Australia Week in China. Indeed, Australia Week in China was regarded as the model for what became a very similar—

Senator WONG: That is probably why you got the job.

Ms Adamson : A very similar business event in India. Australia Week in China was indeed organised by Austrade. They made all of the arrangements—the different sectoral streams, the arrangements for transportation. It was linked into a bigger diplomatic effort. But Austrade were the main organisers. They put out the expressions of interest. They ran the delegations. I genuinely think it is the same in this case. I would be very surprised if Austrade were not able to answer those questions later this evening.

Senator WONG: Will you be here this evening?

Ms Adamson : I can stay. If that provides you with reassurance, I am willing to stay until they can confirm to me that they will answer the question for you.

Senator WONG: They have referred it to the portfolio previously. We would prefer that not to happen tonight.

Ms Adamson : All right. Let us see if we can.

Senator WONG: I am not asking you to stay. Maybe you can make a call and say, 'Make sure you answer Senator Moore's question.'

Ms Adamson : Well, as I say, I would be very surprised if they could not answer it.

Senator WONG: Thank you.

Ms Adamson : I expect them to be able to answer that and, indeed, any other related questions.

Senator MOORE: Thank you, Secretary. I will be here. I also have a couple of very straightforward questions about the young men in Malaysia. It says they are the so-called Budgie Nine, but I don't say that. What consular assistance was provided to that group of Australians in Malaysia?

Ms Adamson : I will ask Mr Philp to answer that question.

Senator MOORE: He is on his way.

Ms Adamson : On the young men in Malaysia.

Mr Philp : I think the short answer is that they were provided the same kind of consular assistance we would have expected to provide to any Australians in that situation.

Senator MOORE: Which would be?

Mr Philp : When we were told of their detention, we sought to visit them in the place of detention, to get in contact with their next of kin, to offer support to their family, particularly once we had the consent of the men involved themselves. We offered them a list of possible local lawyers who could assist them with the legal processes. We assured ourselves that they were being treated in accordance with Malaysian legal processes and laws.

Senator MOORE: Are there costs involved with that?

Mr Philp : There are the costs involved of deploying our consular officers, but it is the same kinds of costs that we offer in the provision of consular assistance to any other Australians.

Senator MOORE: Have any of the Australians in question been asked to repay any costs?

Mr Philp : No. That is not our normal practice.

Senator MOORE: And that is not a standard practice in any case?

Mr Philp : That is not a standard practice. We offer a high standard of consular assistance to Australians partly because we cannot be sure of being able to provide exactly the same level everywhere in the world. In a country like Chad, we cannot. So we cannot meet key service indicators. We do what we can wherever we have consular cases.

Senator MOORE: And have any of the nine Australians offered to pay some costs?

Mr Philp : Not that I am aware of.

Senator MOORE: Is that a practice that occurs?

Mr Philp : That people offer to pay costs? I imagine it happens from time to time, but we do not accept it. It is not something we do.

Senator MOORE: Thank you. I have some more questions on aid or international development.

CHAIR: I know Senator Rhiannon has some questions in the aid space.

Senator RHIANNON: It is a bit of a grey area with aid these days. I am happy to defer.

CHAIR: Continue on then, Senator Moore.

Senator MOORE: Thank you very much. In fact, I have some questions that Senator Rhiannon actually has a question on notice on. It is a shared thing. It is around funding for polio. I know that was mentioned at the last round of estimates. There was a question on notice submitted by Senator Rhiannon. I am trying to get my head around exactly what the meaning of the response is.

Mr McDonald : Yes. I can start off helping.

Senator MOORE: I am wanting to find the question. It spells it out. It was a question about how you are funding polio and the process around eradicating polio across the world. The receipt of the question on notice says that $15 million was provided to the global polio eradication initiative for 2015-16. Another $15 million has been committed to 2016-17. I am wanting to find out exactly what is going on in out years from now in this process, because that is where the question is.

Mr McDonald : There was a commitment around this over five years. I think it has two years to go. That commitment is split between the World Bank for vaccination and between GPEI for the other polio support. If Mr Exell is here, he will be able to give you the exact figures.

Senator MOORE: Was it clear from the start of the commitment that it was going to be split, Mr Exell or Mr McDonald?

Mr Exell : I do not have it with me. I will just double-check. The phrasing of the original announcement by the Prime Minister did refer to how the funding would go to support polio and broader immunisation systems. I do not think it specifically indicated GPEI or the World Bank.

Senator MOORE: There does seem to be some concern—I am sure this is the same question raised by Senator Rhiannon—in the polio eradication area about the efficacy of having this program split. There is some of that in terms of ownership, I would expect, but the outcome was clearly for the eradication of polio. But the way I read the ongoing discussion, it seems that that has been extended to vaccination beyond polio in terms of the split of the funding.

Mr Exell : That is correct in your understanding. So the funding goes both to GPEI, which is a direct contribution to the polio eradication.

Senator MOORE: That is where the funding went in years 1 and 2.

Mr Exell : And there are contributions in years 3 and 4.

Senator MOORE: A lower contribution.

Mr Exell : So $72 million, I think, was the previous question on notice answer, of which the remaining out years are three and three. So it is $15 million, $15 million, $3 million and $3 million, which adds up to $36 million. On the World Bank side, the payment structure is $3 million, $3 million, $15 million, $15 million. So the payment was formulated to GPEI to support the work ongoing, and the reverse on the World Bank. But just to answer the broader question, part of our concern and part of our thinking around this approach was whilst we wanted to see the support to the eradication of polio and the effort is underway right now, the ongoing sustainability of countries' own financing to support immunisations, which includes the new polio vaccines, is just as important. We were concerned that there is a lack of support in this area in the financing and the support for financing happening in South-East Asia and other regions that needs to see this occur for a long time. So you might invest now in polio eradication and we have seen outbreaks again in Nigeria in the last two or three months. So it is that concern that we have to make sure that there is support and financing for vaccinations occurring into the future.

Senator MOORE: I do not think there is any dispute about the need. I think it is actually the focus that is the concern from the people in the concerned areas. Everyone would be very much aware of the program, which is put the final effort to end polio. There is a concern that if we do not maintain the high level of funding for polio specific services, we may not be able to eradicate. There should be a separate focus of funding for the ongoing desperately needed vaccinations across other diseases. So I know this is a government policy decision, Minister, but in terms of putting it on record, it was to clarify exactly what the process is. There does seem to be a lack of understanding in a community that shares the passion. There seems to be a lack of understanding of exactly how it operates.

Mr Exell : Thank you. At the time we did reach out and speak to the industry stakeholders. There are some very committed and very worthwhile people supporting this. We did reach out and explain it.

Senator MOORE: Who would meet with you fairly regularly, I would expect?

Mr Exell : It sounds like we should do that again, yes.

Senator MOORE: I think that is real. At this stage, the government commitment is over the five years. We are halfway through. What you were saying, the loading now in the out years is going more towards the wider program as opposed to polio?

Mr Exell : Correct.

Senator MOORE: Any change would have to be a government policy decision.

Mr Exell : We are just replacing it with polio to the World Bank.

Mr McDonald : I think the vaccinations are about polio as well.

Senator MOORE: As well rather than only.

Mr McDonald : Yes. That was the decision taken. I acknowledge that not everyone in the sector was happy with that decision, which I accept.

Senator MOORE: Sure.

Mr McDonald : But we are as committed as we have ever been to eradicating polio.

Senator MOORE: Thank you. Minister, you would expect to have some more lobbying around that issue.

Senator Fierravanti-Wells: Yes, Senator Moore. I will take that as a comment.

Senator MOORE: Not from me.

Senator Fierravanti-Wells: I appreciate that.

Senator MOORE: Including me, but from a wide range of people.

Senator Fierravanti-Wells: Yes. I understand.

Senator MOORE: My other general question on aid is around reproductive health. I am wanting to get my head around exactly where the funding for reproductive health is. As you said earlier, Mr McDonald, this is an element that the Australian government has actually promoted quite strongly internationally in the last couple of years. I am trying to see exactly what our commitment financially is to reproductive health at the moment and into the future years.

Mr McDonald : The right person is at the table—Mr Exell.

Senator MOORE: Good. That was lucky.

Mr Exell : I think in previous questions on notice or in previous estimates hearings I have provided the previous years figures. The most recent figure we have is for 2014-15. It was $34 million. We do not yet have the 2015-16 estimate. It has not yet been finalised. We do not have a formal target or a formal commitment around a figure. The figure we have is a mixture of central core funding that comes from my division and then funding that comes from within health budgets or country level programs. That comes from the process that Mr McDonald talked a bit earlier about of country priorities. I think that figure will be coming out in the next month or so once we have finalised it.

Senator MOORE: Mr Exell, where does that fit with the 2012 commitment to the London summit?

Mr Exell : As I have answered previously, that was a commitment made under the previous government and with a rising aid budget.

Senator MOORE: I missed that last bit.

Mr Exell : That was a commitment made under the previous government as part of a rising aid budget.

Senator MOORE: So the commitment that was publicly made at that summit is no longer there financially . Is that right?

Senator WONG: It is no longer the government's commitment?

Mr Exell : That is right.

Mr McDonald : Yes. As Mr Exell said, it was under the previous government and it was on the basis that the aid budget was moving towards 0.5 at that point. So it is a previous commitment under a previous government.

Senator MOORE: So how do we then reconcile the focus on gender? I am not trying to make a theoretical comment here. I am trying to reconcile that this was a very public commitment that was specifically around reproductive health. So amidst all the cuts that we took—and we had the information about reduction in aid—what percentage of that reduction was actually focussed on? Was it a $3 million commitment at the women deliver?

Mr McDonald : I would have to take that on notice, unless Mr Exell has it.

Mr Exell : I think the commitment was to increase family planning funding to $53 million per year by 2016.

Senator MOORE: I am sorry, I just put a little line through the five. How did that happen? So $53 million per annum?

Mr Exell : Correct.

Senator MOORE: That was a total figure. When the reduction and change to the aid budget happened, what was the impact on that? The whole commitment was wiped out?

Mr Exell : As I said, that commitment was made under a previous government—

Senator MOORE: Absolutely.

Mr Exell : With a rising aid budget. There was not a new commitment or a prorataed allocation of that was not entered into. As I explained at the beginning of my answer, we do not have a target. It is a combination of central core funding and country level spending that adds up.

Mr McDonald : Senator, I think it is important to make the point on this, because you did raise a question about a commitment to reproductive health. That is still a commitment, a focus within the program. I talked about earlier about our expenditure on women and girls.

Senator MOORE: Yes. I got that one, yes.

Mr McDonald : Which was around $2.3 billion of the $3.8 billion or $4 billion program. So it is just this particular commitment has changed. Our focus on reproductive health, maternal health and the like is still a key focus. We can provide you with advice on notice on what that amount of funding is.

Senator MOORE: I think there was a question this morning from Senator Rhiannon where you are going to list all the elements of the commitment to gender.

Mr McDonald : That is right.

Senator MOORE: Pull it all out. I think that is where we would be able to find that.

Mr McDonald : Yes. Just on that, Mr Wood and I referred to the Orange book that was put out.

Senator MOORE: Yes. I now have a copy of the Orange book.

Mr McDonald : It has the breakdown of the $2.3 billion in that. We will have an update of that as it comes out before the next budget as well. So I am happy to provide whatever detail you need. It is a strong commitment of the Australian government on women and girls.

Senator MOORE: I think I would be happy for you to provide me with $53 million, but I do not think that is going to happen.

Senator Fierravanti-Wells: I think, Senator Moore, as Mr Exell said, it is not just what we are doing in this portfolio but it is in other portfolios as well. So I think what would be helpful, perhaps, is if we provide you with a briefing generally in relation to the gender spending and cover this issue.

Senator MOORE: Sure. I would be most grateful for that.

Senator Fierravanti-Wells: As well. So that we can then go into detail right across the spectrum on what we are doing in this space.

Senator MOORE: I would be very grateful for that.

CHAIR: Before you continue, Senator Moore, I think the secretary wants to make a comment.

Ms Adamson : Chair, with your permission, I would like to clarify terms for Senator Wong that I used earlier in the day about the foreign policy strategy, foreign policy white paper. The terms 'white paper' and 'foreign policy strategy' have been used interchangeably and in the department we have used term 'foreign policy strategy' and 'white paper'. Having seen media reporting which suggests there is some confusion, I can confirm that the work being undertaken is for a white paper.

Senator WONG: That is the decision of the government? Sorry, may I follow up on that?

CHAIR: Please.

Senator WONG: Has the government made a decision there will be a white paper? I thought your evidence this morning was that that was still a matter government was going to consider.

Ms Adamson : What we are working on, Senator Wong, is a white paper.

Senator WONG: That was not my question. Is the government's policy or position it will release—

Ms Adamson : The government's position is that we are to produce a white paper, a foreign policy white paper.

Senator WONG: So that is the government's position?

Ms Adamson : That is the government's position.

Senator WONG: I think I asked you that question a few times this morning, Ms Adamson.

Ms Adamson : You did ask me that question this morning, Senator Wong. I am now able to clarify what I said earlier.

Senator WONG: Thank you.

CHAIR: Back to you, Senator Moore. Then when you have a break, I will go to Senator Rhiannon.

Senator MOORE: I just want to follow up briefly on the reproductive health element. I am very grateful for the briefing, so I will take you up on that, Minister, at some time. Were there any specific programs that were expected to be funded out of the 2012 process that are now are not being funded?

Mr McDonald : I will need to take that—

Senator MOORE: And you can take that on notice.

Mr McDonald : I will take that on notice. I will clarify that I got mixed up in the colours. I referred to the Orange book but it is actually the Green book.

Senator MOORE: It was the one this morning you mentioned. When you mentioned it, I wrote it down and now I have got it.

Mr McDonald : In here, reproductive health care, $43.2 million for 2014-15.

Senator MOORE: So if I could find out where the programs that had expected to be funded have been?

Mr McDonald : I will. I am happy to take that on notice.

Senator MOORE: I had questions along the same way with maternal health, but we will follow up on that in the briefing process.

Senator Fierravanti-Wells: When you request the briefing from us, if you might kindly explain the parameters precisely.

Senator MOORE: Absolutely.

Senator Fierravanti-Wells: Absolutely. And then that way we can ensure that we have the appropriate officers to brief you.

Senator WONG: Can I just follow up that clarification? Is that okay?

Senator MOORE: Sure.

Senator WONG: I would like to understand whether or not there has been a change in the government's position over the course of the day—that is, there has been a decision made to do a white paper. When you gave the answer this morning, was that your understanding of the government's position—that you thought it was an open question? I think that was the answer.

Ms Adamson : Well, the answer I gave this morning was based on my knowledge of what was in the platform and the work that we have been doing in the coalition's election platform and which was described as a foreign policy strategy. I also said this morning that the minister for foreign affairs had described it as a white paper. I said we had used both terms within the department. As I have just said, I am now able to clarify that what we are producing is in fact a foreign policy white paper. That is what the team in the department is doing and that is what we, when we sought expressions of interest, sought.

Senator WONG: I am not going to put you in a difficult position by comparing and contrasting the position this morning to now. I think people can make their own judgement. But I am interested in the process. So when was the decision made that the government would have a white paper? When was that decision finalised? Was that finalised today?

Ms Adamson : I will need to take that question on notice.

Senator WONG: Was it a decision of the cabinet?

Ms Adamson : I need to take that question on notice.

Senator WONG: When were you advised this decision?

Ms Adamson : As I said, I have been using both of those terms interchangeably.

Senator WONG: I know that is your answer. That was not my question. When were you advised that the decision that there was a final decision that the government would have a foreign policy white paper?

Ms Adamson : I have conveyed to you, Senator, the government's position that we are to produce a foreign policy white paper.

Senator WONG: When were you advised that that was the decision of the government?

Ms Adamson : I have used the terms interchangeably. That means that either of them is able to be used. In fact, both had been used. What we are producing is a foreign policy white paper.

CHAIR: Senator Moore, perhaps if I go to Senator Rhiannon now and then I will come back to you.

Senator RHIANNON: I would like to pick up on PNG questions that I was asking earlier.

Mr McDonald : That would be Mr Sloper.

Senator RHIANNON: What safeguards have been put in place to ensure that the Australian government is not complicit, through its involvement in organising APEC 2018, in illegal land grabs, forced displacement and other forms of human rights abuses?

Mr Sloper : The safeguards are the same as we put in place for all our programs, where we have safeguards regarding displacement, community consultation in regard to the protection of children and so on. I would note that in regard to APEC 2018, as I said earlier today, we are not funding or supporting any activities at the moment.

Senator RHIANNON: But you will obviously be involved. At the start of your answer, you said the safeguards you will put are similar to other programs. Were you referring to other programs in PNG?

Mr Sloper : DFAT aid programs across the board.

Senator RHIANNON: In general?

Mr Sloper : Yes.

Senator RHIANNON: So not specifically about PNG, despite the fact of the high levels of corruption that have been identified in that country? Nothing special for that country?

Mr Sloper : Well, we have a zero tolerance for fraud and corruption throughout the program, so it is the same procedures.

Senator RHIANNON: But I was after specifics. The key word in the question was 'safeguards'?

Mr McDonald : What we do, as Mr Sloper said, is we have safeguards around a whole range of risks, including children, corruption and the like. We have a zero tolerance. We apply that to all our investments. Depending on our risk assessment, that informs us what sort of requirements we put around that, including how we distribute the money out as a result of that. So that applies across all our programs and projects. And depending on the country and what is happening within that country, that will vary the application of those safeguards.

Senator RHIANNON: Could you take on notice and provide what those safeguards are and what you actually do?

Mr McDonald : Yes. Absolutely.

Mr Sloper : Can I confirm whether that is in regard to APEC 2018 or all programs in PNG?

Senator RHIANNON: APEC 2018. Did DFAT express any concerns to the PNG government about any alleged human rights abuses at the Paga Hill estate development, including the destruction of homes or other potentially illegal practices?

Mr Sloper : I will need to take that on notice. I am aware of the reporting on that in Australia and the issue. I just do not know whether we did make any representations. I would expect not. But it will depend on our involvement with that particular program. You asked earlier today whether we were funding the ADB or World Bank on that and I took that on notice.

Senator RHIANNON: Thank you. Considering Paga Hill, as a former national park, is to be the APEC meeting site and research conducted by the international state crime initiative shows the Paga Hill development company illegally acquired its urban development lease and its business lease for that area, and considering the company's Australian CEO Gudmundur Fridriksson rang companies censured in four PNG public accounts committee inquiries, four inquiries all up—considering these serious developments, are you monitoring the potential for the preparation and running of APEC may involve corrupt practices? I appreciate that was similar to earlier questions, but I did want to clarify what you are doing.

Mr Sloper : Thank you. Firstly, I just note that the decisions around APEC, its hosting and so on are those for the PNG government and not for the Australian government. Of course if we are to be engaged—and we are not involved in support for the APEC hosting planning at this stage; as I mentioned, we are involved in policy discussions about what PNG may want from us. But if we were to engage in, that of course the safeguards are outlined by Mr McDonald and our concerns about corruption would come into play. We would review whatever activities we are undertaking. I have to say at this stage all the requests we have received, though, in regard to security operations and support for the events are not in regard to the hosting and infrastructure developments associated with them. They have all been decisions for the PNG government.

Senator RHIANNON: So you are not asked to do any infrastructure. You are asked to do nothing more than turn up?

Mr Sloper : No. At this stage, the discussions are around security cooperation. So they build on the police cooperation program we have and our defence cooperation program and how that may fit into the planning for APEC. As you would appreciate with a range of leaders, ministers visiting, most APEC economies normally go to quite extensive planning in that regard. That is the specific issues on which Papua New Guinea has come to us and asked for some assistance.

Senator RHIANNON: So could there be a situation where the APEC is on this site where there have been practices involved but you have not been involved in any aspect of the development but security. Your people will be working at the site. Do you have due diligence to check on how it came to be turned from a national park into a mining development into a major development for APEC?

Mr Sloper : I understand the concerns about the Paga development. I do not think I can really respond to the question, which is really speculating on whether we are to be asked in regard to a potential site for an APEC meeting in the future. I will undertake to answer the question you asked before, but I think we are getting to hypotheticals now. I would note that my understanding is that the actual APEC house that will be built for the leaders meeting is yet to be constructed and it will be on an artificial island extending out from the coast of Papua New Guinea in the port area.

Senator RHIANNON: So the company we spoke about earlier—Curtain Bros—is an Australian owned company? Is that correct?

Mr Sloper : I do not know the details of the company's ownership. I am aware that some individuals working for the company are of Australian nationality or maybe dual nationality, but I am not aware of the actual ownership arrangements for the company.

Senator RHIANNON: This is a general question. Are Australian owned companies operating overseas bound to any Australian environmental, IR, business, social or other standards?

Mr McDonald : As I said earlier, all our partners, and through the way that we put our investments in place, are required to apply the safeguards that we have within our program.

Senator RHIANNON: The question was actually about whether they are done by any Australian standards. I understand the one about paedophilia. Are they bound by any other Australian standards with regard to how Australian companies operate, particularly in low-income countries?

Mr McDonald : Unless Mr Gilling or Mr Sloper can help on this, I would have to take that on notice.

Mr Sloper : It is not an area of my expertise, but there are obligations on Australians and Australian companies operating overseas with regard to corruption and reporting of corruption and those activities. Australian legislation does apply offshore in some regards, but it is not an area of my expertise.

Senator Fierravanti-Wells: I think, Senator Rhiannon, we will take that question on notice. It does have a number of complexities associated with it. Certainly we would prefer to take it on notice to give you the best answer that we can.

Senator RHIANNON: One of your colleagues has just joined the table. I wonder if he has a response.

Mr Gilling : The minister's response there was an accurate one because the safeguards provisions that we are required to take relate to the partners that we work with and where they work. Those safeguard provisions sometimes have to apply Australian rules and sometimes do not. It depends on things like international agreements. So it is indeed a complex area.

Senator RHIANNON: Thank you. This is a slightly more general question about PNG. What steps have been taken to stop Australia from becoming a safe haven for laundered money and assets acquired through corruption in PNG?

Mr Sloper : We take this issue seriously both in terms of our earlier discussion but also in terms of potential laundering of money and that transfer of funds to Australia. Activities with regard to this are undertaken by a range of agencies, so I will speak in broad terms on some of them because detailed questions are best referred to those particular agencies. We work jointly with Papua New Guinean agencies to disrupt efforts that we are not a safe haven here in Australia for any proceedings from crime and corruption. Any allegations that are referred to us that are considered to be breach of law are then investigated. There is an evidentiary test naturally associated with that. We have a non-conviction based proceeds of crime system that can be utilised to restrain or forfeit assets related to criminal activities committed overseas. We can seize assets and cancel the visas of corrupt individuals. So we are working closely with agencies in Papua New Guinea to stop the proceeds of crime flowing to Australia. As part of that, the AFP has a senior liaison officer at the high commission in Port Moresby to facilitate police assistance on these and other issues. You might be aware we have anti-money laundering and a counterterrorism financing framework also in this regard. That is not specific, of course, to Papua New Guinea. But we do monitor it closely.

Senator RHIANNON: With your monitoring, are Australian banks doing enough to detect and stop transfers of illicitly acquired funds from PNG to Australia?

Mr Sloper : It is a comment on the nature of the banks' activity. I think they are working with AUSTRAC and relevant agencies to ensure they meet their legislative obligations.

CHAIR: Thank you, Senator Rhiannon. I will go back to you, Senator Moore.

Senator MOORE: Thank you, Chair. I did receive a briefing about the green climate program, but I would like to get on record some of the funding around climate change generally in our international aid program. I know that several announcements have been made about quantum funds. I just want to get clear in my mind about the expenditure and how that expenditure then is distributed throughout our program.

Mr McDonald : While Mr Wood is looking up the climate expenditure, I can talk about the green climate fund given my role as co-chair.

Senator MOORE: That role continues, Mr McDonald?

Mr McDonald : It continues until the end of this calendar year.

Senator MOORE: Calendar year?

Mr McDonald : Yes. So the Australian government provided $200 million into the Green Climate Fund over four years.

Senator MOORE: Starting?

Mr McDonald : Now you are testing me. We are into our third year. We paid in $130 million of that. We have $70 million to go over the next two instalments. As part of that, the Green Climate Fund, you would know, Senator, from our earlier discussions is very important in the Pacific region. During our year of co-chairing, we have had, I think, a lot of success in increasing the understanding and emphasis of other board members on the Pacific, which will end up with the next board meeting, the fourth board meeting, being held in Samoa, where Australia and Samoa will jointly host that meeting. I think it is a great opportunity to showcase the Pacific and some of the challenges that are there for our Pacific islands and to have the opportunity to talk about some of the projects we have had approved and some of the projects that are in the pipeline.

Senator MOORE: So when is that meeting due, Mr McDonald?

Mr McDonald : The meeting is from 12 to 15 December. That will have a number, we expect, of projects from the Pacific going to it. So far, we have had a project in Tuvalu approved which was worth $36 million. As you know, Tuvalu's GDP is $31 million.

Senator MOORE: Yes. It was a big project.

Mr McDonald : Yes. So the focus we have had is about lifting the understanding of the Pacific. It has also been through our border program that Mr Sloper runs through the Pacific to help build capacity. One of the issues here is about the capacity to put projects together. The projects need to be more innovative. What I mean by innovative is if you think about energy as a requirement within the Pacific, how do you put together programs and projects that are attractive to the private sector, because this fund has a private sector facility in it? The final thing I will say, given time is short, is that at the last board meeting we approved $745 million of projects. So we have approved over a billion dollars of projects so far this year. I expect us to get reasonably close to our aspiration of $2.5 billion. As part of that, we have a very good private sector project that was approved that leveraged money from the private sector with the GCF contributing its portion, which was the first project approved of that sort of magnitude at the last meeting. So the fund is starting to move in the right direction from our point of view. That is sort of a bit of a status, I suppose.

Senator MOORE: How many programs have been funded within our Pacific region beyond the Tuvalu one?

Mr McDonald : In terms of projects, there has been a Fiji p