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Environment and Communications Legislation Committee
27/02/2017
Estimates
ENVIRONMENT AND ENERGY PORTFOLIO

ENVIRONMENT AND ENERGY PORTFOLIO

In Attendance

Senator Birmingham, Minister for Education and Training, representing the Minister for the Environment and Energy

Senator Ruston, Assistant Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources

Department of the Environment and Energy

Executive

Dr Gordon de Brouwer, Secretary

Mr Malcolm Thompson, 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, Acting Chief Operating Officer

Ms Linda Nitschke, Chief Finance Officer

Mr David Williams, Assistant Secretary, People Strategies Branch

General Counsel

Mr Simon Writer

Policy Analysis and Implementation

Mr Sean Sullivan, First Assistant Secretary

Ms Lucy Vincent, Chief Risk Officer, Governance Branch

Ms Peta Lane, Assistant Secretary, Policy and Communications Branch

Mr Adam Carlon, Assistant Secretary, Analysis Branch

Mr Ross Lambie, Assistant Secretary, Economics Branch

Outcome 1

Biodiversity and Conservation

Ms Kylie Jonasson, First Assistant Secretary

Mr Steve Costello, Assistant Secretary, Program Delivery Branch

Mr Matthew Dadswell, Assistant Secretary, Program Support Branch

Ms Emma Campbell, Assistant Secretary, Landcare and Biodiversity Policy Branch

Ms Rachel Parry, Assistant Secretary, Reef Branch

Mr Gregory Andrews, Assistant Secretary, Threatened Species Commissioner

Environment Standards

Mr Matt Cahill, First Assistant Secretary

Ms Monica Collins, Assistant Secretary, Compliance and Enforcement Branch

Mr James Tregurtha, Assistant Secretary, Policy and Reform Branch

Mr Andrew McNee, Assistant Secretary, Chemicals and Waste Branch

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

Mr James Barker, Assistant Secretary, Assessments (QLD) and Sea Dumping Branch

Mr Bruce Edwards, Assistant Secretary, Assessments (WA, SA, NT) and Air Branch

Science

Mr Matthew Whitfort, Acting First Assistant Secretary

Ms Lalage Cherry, Acting Assistant Secretary, Environmental Resources Information Network

Mr Keith Tayler, Assistant Secretary, Supervising Scientist

Wildlife, Heritage and Marine

Mr Stephen Oxley, First Assistant Secretary

Mr Chris Johnston, Assistant Secretary, Heritage Branch

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

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

Ms Deb Callister, Assistant Secretary, Marine and International Heritage Branch

Outcome 2

Domestic Emissions Reduction Division

Ms Helen Wilson, First Assistant Secretary

Ms Gayle Milnes, Assistant Secretary, Energy Efficiency and Industry Branch

Mr Travis Bover, Acting Assistant Secretary, Domestic Policy Branch

Ms Katrina Maguire, Assistant Secretary, Land Branch

Mr Ross Lum, Director, Domestic Policy Branch

Ms Beth Brunoro, Assistant Secretary

International Climate Change and Energy Innovation Division

Mr Brad Archer, First Assistant Secretary

Mr James White, Assistant Secretary, Energy Innovation Branch

Dr Lesley Dowling, Special Advisor, Energy Innovation Branch

Ms Kushla Munro, Assistant Secretary, International Branch

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

Outcome 3

Australian Antarctic Division

Dr Nick Gales, Director

Dr Rob Wooding, General Manager, Support and Operations

Mr Rob Bryson, Program Manager Modernisation Taskforce

Dr Gwen Fenton, Chief Scientist

Mr Matthew Sutton, Finance Manager

Outcome 4

Commonwealth Environmental Water Office

Mr Hilton Taylor, Assistant Secretary, Southern Water use, Aquatic Science and Community Engagement Branch

Science

Mr Matthew Whitfort, Acting First Assistant Secretary

Dr Barbara Musso, Acting Assistant Secretary, Office of Water Science

Outcome 5

Energy Division

Ms Joann Wilke, Acting First Assistant Secretary

Ms Michelle Croker, Assistant Secretary, Appliance Energy Efficiency Branch

Mr Brenton Philp, Assistant Secretary, Gas, Governance and International Branch

Mr James O'Toole, Assistant Secretary, Electricity Branch

Energy Security Office

Ms Margaret Sewell, First Assistant Secretary

Ms Helen Bennett, Assistant Secretary, Energy Security Policy

Mr Darrell Porter, Assistant Secretary, International Energy Implementation

Agencies and Statutory Authorities

Australian Renewable Energy Agency

Mr Ivor Frischknecht, Chief Executive Officer

Mr Ian Kay, Chief Financial Officer

Bureau of Meteorology

Dr Andrew Johnson, Director of Meteorology

Mr Robert Webb, Deputy Director, Hazards, Warnings and Forecasts Division

Mr Trevor Plowman, Acting Deputy Director, Corporate Services Division

Clean Energy Finance Corporation

Mr Oliver Yates, Chief Executive Officer

Mr Andrew Powell, Chief Financial Officer

Clean Energy Regulator

Ms Jody Swirepik, Executive General Manager, Regulatory Obligation and Coordination Division

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

Mr Christopher Ramsden, Chief Operations Officer, Business Operations Division

Mr Geoff Purvis-Smith, General Counsel

Ms Joanna Stone, Chief Financial Officer

Climate Change Authority

Ms Shayleen Thompson, Acting Chief Executive Officer

Dr Wendy Craik, Chair, Climate Change Authority Board

Director of National Parks

Ms Sally Barnes

Mr Jason Mundy, Assistant Secretary, Marine Protected Area Branch, Parks Australia

Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority

Dr Russell Reichelt, Chairman

Ms Margaret Johnson, General Manager, Policy and Stewardship

Mr Bruce Elliot, General Manager, Biodiversity, Conservation and Sustainable Use

Dr Simon Banks, General Manager, Great Barrier Reef Operations

Ms Belinda Jago, Chief Operating Officer

Wind Farm Commissioner

Commissioner Andrew Dyer

Committee met at 08:59

CHAIR ( Senator Reynolds ): I declare open this meeting of the Senate Environment and Communications Legislation Committee. The Senate has referred to the committee the particulars of certain proposed additional expenditure for 2016-17 for the portfolios of Environment and Energy, and Communications and the Arts, and other related documents. The committee has fixed Friday, 28 April 2017 as the date for the return of answers to questions taken on notice. The committee's proceedings today will begin with general questions of the Department of the Environment and Energy. We will then follow the order as set out in the program.

Under standing order 26, the committee must take all evidence in public session. This includes answers to questions on notice. Officers and senators are familiar with the rules of the Senate governing estimates hearings. If you need assistance, the secretariat has copies of the rules. The Senate has also resolved that an officer of a department of the Commonwealth shall not be asked to give opinions on matters of policy and shall be given reasonable opportunity to refer questions asked of the officer to a superior officer or to a minister. This resolution prohibits only questions asking for opinions on matters of policy and does not preclude questions asking for an explanation of policies or factual questions about when and how policies were adopted. I particularly draw the attention of witnesses to an order of the Senate of 13 May 2009 specifying the process by which a claim of public interest immunity should be raised.

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

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

I warmly welcome Senator the Hon. Simon Birmingham, Minister for Education and Training, representing the Minister for the Environment and Energy, and all portfolio officers. Minister, would you like to make an opening statement?

Senator Birmingham: Good morning, Chair, and everybody—not from me, thank you.

CHAIR: Welcome back to estimates, Secretary. Would you like to make an opening statement?

Dr de Brouwer : Thank you, Chair, just some very brief comments—and welcome back.

CHAIR: Thank you. It is good to be back.

Dr de Brouwer : I just wanted to say, for the advice of the committee, that from the last estimates hearing we had 354 questions on notice. We provided the answers to those questions on notice within the specified time. Also, we distributed on Friday, with your permission, an updated mapping of the outcomes with specific topics and programs, and we really welcome any of the committee members' feedback on whether that is helpful or whether we could add in other programs or whatever would be more helpful in understanding the mapping of specific programs to the outcomes.

CHAIR: Senator Urquhart, do you have a copy of that?

Senator URQUHART: I have. I have studied it and it is very good, Dr de Brouwer, and I hope that I can follow it. I am sure you will tell me if I am in the wrong area.

CHAIR: I would like to echo those comments on two fronts, Dr de Brouwer. It is a very good summary of quite a complicated area. Thank you. And I too hope that my colleagues can keep to the program. Also, if you can pass the committee's thanks to all in your department for getting all of those answers to questions on notice in on time. I know that is no mean feat, and we thank you for that work.

Dr de Brouwer : Thank you, Chair. With your agreement, the Wind Farm Commissioner had a statement that he would have liked to have made, and I submit that to the committee for your information.

CHAIR: Is the committee happy to accept this statement as tabled? There being no objections, it is accepted. Please pass on our thanks to Mr Dyer for preparing that. We are grateful for his update. We will now go to questions.