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Environment and Communications Legislation Committee


In Attendance

Senator Birmingham, Minister for Education and Training

Department of the Environment and Energy


Mr Finn Pratt, Secretary

Mr Matt Cahill, Acting Deputy Secretary, Strategy and Operations Group

Mr Dean Knudson, Deputy Secretary, Environment Protection Group

Ms Jo Evans, Deputy Secretary, Climate Change and Renewables Innovation Group

Mr Rob Heferen, Deputy Secretary, Energy

Corporate Strategies

Ms Paula Goodwin, Chief Operating Officer

Ms Giorgina Strangio, Assistant Secretary, People Strategies Branch

General Counsel

Ms Margaret Tregurtha, General Counsel

Policy Analysis and Implementation Division

Dr Rachel Bacon, First Assistant Secretary

Ms Lucy Vincent, Chief Risk Officer, Governance Branch

Ms Emma Campbell, Assistant Secretary, Strategic Advice Branch

Mr Adam Carlon, Assistant Secretary, Communications, Innovation and Partnerships Branch

Mr Ross Lambie, Assistant Secretary, Economics Branch

Outcome 1

Biodiversity Conservation Division

Ms Kylie Jonasson, First Assistant Secretary

Ms Tia Stevens, Acting Assistant Secretary, Natural Resource Management Branch

Mr Steve Costello, Assistant Secretary, Program Delivery Branch

Mr Matthew Dadswell, Assistant Secretary, Biodiversity Policy and Water Science Branch

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

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

Dr Sally Box, Threatened Species Commissioner

Environment Standards Division

Mr James Tregurtha, Acting First Assistant Secretary

Mr Bruce Edwards, Assistant Secretary, Policy and Reform Branch

Mr James Barker, Assistant Secretary, Assessments (QLD, VIC, TAS) and Governance Branch

Ms Kim Farrant, Assistant Secretary, Assessments (NSW, ACT) and Waste Branch

Mr Greg Manning, Assistant Secretary, Assessments (WA, SA, NT) and Post Approvals Branch

Mr Andrew McNee, Assistant Secretary, Chemicals Management Branch

Ms Monica Collins, Assistant Secretary, Office of Compliance

Mr Mike Smith, Director, NSW Assessments South Section, Assessments and Waste Branch

Ms Antonella Bates, Director, Waste Initiatives Section, Assessments and Waste Branch

Knowledge and Technology Division

Ms Beth Brunoro, First Assistant Secretary

Mr Matthew Whitfort, Assistant Secretary, Environmental Accounts and Science Branch

Mr Sebastian Hood, Assistant Secretary, Information Technology Branch

Her itage, Reef and Marine Division

Mr Stephen Oxley, First Assistant Secretary

Ms Deb Callister, Assistant Secretary, Reef Branch

Mr David Williams, Assistant Secretary, Heritage Branch

Mr Keith Tayler, Supervising Scientist, Supervising Scientist Branch

Ms Paula Perret, Assistant Secretary, Marine and International Heritage Branch

Outcome 2

Climate Change

Ms Helen Wilson, First Assistant Secretary

Ms Gayle Milnes, Assistant Secretary, Industrial and Air Quality Branch

Mr Chris Johnston, Assistant Secretary, Climate Change Policy Branch

Ms Katrina Maguire, Assistant Secretary, Land and Outreach Branch

International Climate Change and Energy Innovation Division

Mr Brad Archer, First Assistant Secretary

Dr Lesley Dowling, Assistant Secretary, Energy Innovation and Ozone Protection Branch

Ms Kushla Munro, Assistant Secretary, International Branch

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

Mr Declan O'Connor-Cox, Director, Air Quality Section

Outcome 3

Australian Antarctic Division

Dr Nick Gales, Director

Mr Charlton Clark, Acting Director

Dr Gwen Fenton, Chief Scientist

Mr Rob Bryson, Program Manager, Modernisation Taskforce

Dr Rob Wooding, General Manager, Support and Operations

Outcome 4

Energy Division

Mr James Chisholm, First Assistant Secretary

Mr Brenton Philp, Assistant Secretary, Gas and Governance Branch

Mr James O'Toole, Assistant Secretary, Electricity Branch

Mr James White, Assistant Secretary, Clean Energy Branch

Ms Rachel Parry, Assistant Secretary, Energy Productivity Branch

Mr Dwayne Purdy, Director of Gas Policy, Gas and Governance Branch

Mr Paul Locke, Director of Wholesale and Networks, Electricity Branch

Ms Joanne Bright, Director of National Energy Guarantee, Clean Energy Branch

Mr Jeewantha Karunarathna, Director of National Energy Guarantee, Clean Energy Branch

Energy Security and Efficiency Division

Mr Sean Sullivan, First Assistant Secretary

Mr Shane Gaddes, Assistant Secretary, Energy International Implementation Branch

Ms Helen Bennett, Assistant Secretary, Energy Security Branch

Ms Fiona Beynon, Director of Fuel Policy Section, Energy Security Branch

Ms Michelle Croker, Assistant Secretary, Appliance and Building Energy Efficiency Branch

Mr Rick Miles, Director of Government Employees Medical Scheme Strategy, Governance and Analysis Section, Appliance and Building Energy Efficiency Branch

Agencies and Statutory Authorities

Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA)

Mr Ivor Frischknecht, Chief Executive Officer

Mr Ian Kay, Chief Financial Officer

Bureau of Meteorology

Dr Andrew Johnson, Chief Executive Officer and Director of Meteorology

Mr Robert Webb, Deputy Chief Executive Officer and Group Executive, National Forecast Services

Ms Jennifer Gale, Group Executive, Corporate Services

C lean Energy Finance Corporation

Mr Ian Learmonth, Chief Executive Officer

Mr Andrew Powell, Chief Financial Officer

Clean Energy Regulator

Mr David Parker, Chair

Mr Geoff Purvis-Smith, General Counsel

Ms Mary-Anne Wilson, General Manager

Mr Tas Sakellaris, General Manager

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

Mr Chris Ramsden, Chief Operations Officer, Business Operations Division

Mr Declan O'Connor-Cox, Director, Air Quality Section

Climate Change Authority

Dr Wendy Craik, Chair, Climate Change Authority

Ms Shayleen Thompson, Acting Chief Executive Officer, Climate Change Authority

Ms Melanie Ford, Acting General Manager, Climate Change Authority

Director of National Parks

Dr Judy West, Acting Director of National Parks

Mr Jason Mundy, Assistant Secretary, Marine Protected Areas Branch

Mr John Gibbs, Assistant Secretary, Joint Management Branch

Great Barrier Reef Ma rine Park Authority

Dr Russell Reichelt, Chairman

Ms Margaret Johnson, General Manager, Reef Strategy

Dr Simon Banks, General Manager, Reef Protection

Mr Bruce Elliot, General Manager, Reef Engagement

Ms Belinda Jago, Acting General Manager, Corporate Services

Snowy Hydro Limited

Mr Roger Whitby, Chief Operating Officer

Ms Cesilia Kim, General Counsel and Group Executive for Corporate Affairs, Procurement, Legal and Regulatory Compliance

Committee met at 08:30

CHAIR ( Senator Duniam ): Welcome all. I declare open this meeting of the Senate Environment and Communications Legislation Committee. The Senate has referred to the committee the particulars of proposed additional expenditure and particulars of certain proposed additional expenditure for the 2017-18 financial year for the portfolios of Environment and Energy and Communications and the Arts and other related documents. The committee has fixed Tuesday, 17 April as the date for the return of answers to questions taken on notice. The committee's proceedings today will begin with Snowy Hydro Limited.

Under standing order 26, the committee must take all evidence in public session. This includes all answers to questions taken on notice. Officers and senators are familiar with rules of the Senate governing estimates hearings. If you need assistance, please see the secretariat for a copy of the rules. I particularly draw the attention of witnesses to an order of the Senate dated 13 May 2009 specifying the process by which a claim of public interest immunity should be raised.

    The extract read as follows—

Public interest immunity claims

That the Senate—

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

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

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

(1) If:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(13 May 2009 J.1941)

(Extract, Senate Standing Orders)

Witnesses are specifically reminded that a statement that a document is confidential or consists of advice to government is not a statement that meets the requirements of this 2009 order. Instead, witnesses are required to provide some specific indication of the harm to the public interest that could result from the disclosure of the information or the document.

Officers called upon for the first time to answer a question should state their full name and their position for the Hansard record, and witnesses should speak clearly into the microphones. As always, mobile phones should be switched off or on silent.