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Finance and Public Administration Legislation Committee
25/05/2018
Estimates
PRIME MINISTER AND CABINET PORTFOLIO

PRIME MINISTER AND CABINET PORTFOLIO

In Attendance

Senator the Hon Nigel Scullion, Minister for Indigenous Affairs

Indigenous Land Corporation

Mr John Maher, Chief Executive Officer

Ms Tricia Button, Deputy Chief Executive Officer

Mr David Silcock, Chief Financial Officer

Indigenous Business Australia

Mr Rajiv Viswanathan, Chief Executive Officer

Mr Wally Tallis, Deputy Chief Executive Officer

Aboriginal Hostels Limited

Mr Anthony Usher, Chief Executive Officer

Ms Michelle Deavin, Chief Finance Officer

Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies

Ms Letitia Hope, Acting Chief Executive Officer

Office of Township Leasing

Ms Pennie Weedon, Acting Executive Director of Township Leasing

Ms Annette Murtagh, Acting Director, Township Leasing Engagement

Ms Lorna Gregory, Acting Director, Township Leasing Engagement

Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet

Mr Andrew Tongue, Associate Secretary, Indigenous Affairs

Professor Ian Anderson, Deputy Secretary, Indigenous Affairs

Ms Elizabeth Hefren-Webb, First Assistant Secretary, Education, Community Safety and Health Division

Ms Tarja Saastamoinen, Assistant Secretary, Community Safety Branch

Mr Peter Arnaudo, Assistant Secretary, Health and Wellbeing Branch

Ms Tania Ellison, Acting Assistant Secretary, Education and Youth Policy Branch

Ms Belinda Campbell, Assistant Secretary, School Attendance and Programme Delivery Branch

Ms Carita Davis, Assistant Secretary, Women, Families and Children Branch

Mr Troy Sloan, First Assistant Secretary, Policy, Analysis and Evaluation Division

Mr Robert Ryan, Assistant Secretary, Empowered Communities Branch

Mr Sam Jeffries, Special Adviser, Regional Governance

Ms Danielle Donegan, Assistant Secretary, Policy and Evidence Branch

Mr Shane Johnson, Assistant Secretary, Indigenous Affairs Group Information and Evaluation Branch

Dr John Walker, Acting Assistant Secretary, Strategy Policy Branch

Mr Ryan Bulman, Acting First Assistant Secretary, Housing, Land and Culture Division

Mr Charles Higgins, Acting Assistant Secretary, Remote Strategies Branch

Ms Danielle Regeling, Acting Assistant Secretary, Housing Branch

Mr Leonard Hill, Assistant Secretary, Culture Branch

Mr Wayne Beswick, Assistant Secretary, Land Branch

Ms Susan Black, First Assistant Secretary, Programme Office

Mr Stuart Turnbull, Assistant Secretary, Grant Delivery, Reform and Compliance Branch

Mr Brant Smith, Assistant Secretary, Risk and Assurance Branch

Mr Andrew Huey, Acting Assistant Secretary, Grant Advice, Assessment and Performance Branch

Ms Marian Moss, Assistant Secretary, Office of the Registrar of Indigenous Corporations Reform Taskforce

Ms Deborah Lewis, First Assistant Secretary, Community and Economic Development Division

Mr Paul Denny, Assistant Secretary, Community Development Program Operations Branch

Ms Chloe Bird, Assistant Secretary, Community Development Program Strategy Branch

Ms Clare Sharp, Assistant Secretary, Business and Economic Policy Branch

Mr Jamie Fox, First Assistant Secretary, Indigenous Employment and Recognition Division

Ms Joanna Da Rocha, Assistant Secretary, Strategic Priorities Branch

Mr Brendan Jacomb, Assistant Secretary, Legal Services Branch

Ms Jo Neuling, Acting Assistant Secretary, Employment Policy Branch

Ms Maxine Ewens, Assistant Secretary, Business Transformation Office

Ms Anne-Marie Roberts, First Assistant Secretary, Regional Network Division

Ms Wendy McIntyre, Assistant Secretary, Delivery Support Branch

Ms Charlotte Tressler, Chief Financial Officer, Corporate Division

Department of Health

Ms Caroline Edwards, Deputy Secretary, Health System Policy and Primary Care Group

Ms Kate Wallace, Acting First Assistant Secretary, Indigenous Health Division

Ms Kate Thomann, Assistant Secretary, Primary Health and Data Evidence Branch, Indigenous Health Division

Ms Carly Partridge, Acting Assistant Secretary, Early Years, Program Management and Engagement Branch, Indigenous Health Division

Ms Meredeth Taylor, Assistant Secretary, Chronic Disease, Infrastructure and Sector Support Branch, Indigenous Health Division

Ms Natasha Cole, First Assistant Secretary, Primary Care and Mental Health Division

Ms Sharon Appleyard, First Assistant Secretary, Office of Health Protection

Dr Tony Hobbs, Acting Chief Medical Officer

Mr Chris Carlile, Assistant Secretary, Enhanced Response Unit, Office of Health Protection

Mr David Hallinan, First Assistant Secretary, Health Workforce Division

Mr David Laffan, Assistant Secretary, Alcohol, Tobacco and Other Drugs Branch, Population Health and Sport Division

Mr Paul McCormack, Assistant Secretary, Streamlining Grants Branch, Health Grants and Network Division

Mr Graeme Barden, Assistant Secretary, Residential and Flexible Care Branch, Residential and Flexible Aged Care Division

Committee met at 09:01

CHAIR ( Senator Paterson ): Good morning, everyone. I declare open this meeting of the Senate Finance and Public Administration Legislation Committee. Today the committee will continue its examination of the budget estimates for 2018-19 for the cross-portfolio hearing on Indigenous matters. The committee's proceedings will begin today by examining the Indigenous agencies as listed on the program and then proceed to outcome 2 of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. At the conclusion of outcome 2, the committee will examine Indigenous health issues, where officers from the Department of Health will join officers of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. The committee may also examine the annual reports of departments and agencies appearing before it.

The committee is due to report to the Senate on 26 June 2018 and has fixed 6 July 2018 as the date for the return of answers to questions taken on notice. Under standing order 26, the committee must take all evidence in public session. This includes answers to questions on notice. I remind all witnesses that in giving evidence to the committee they are protected by parliamentary privilege. It is unlawful for anyone to threaten or disadvantage a witness on account of evidence given to a committee. Such action may be treated by the Senate as a contempt. It is also a contempt to give false or misleading evidence to a committee.

The Senate, by resolution in 1999, endorsed the following test of relevance at estimates hearings. Any questions going to the operations or financial positions of the departments and agencies which are seeking funds in the estimates are relevant questions for the purpose of estimates hearings. I remind officers that the Senate has resolved that there are no areas in connection with the expenditure of public funds where any person has a discretion to withhold details or explanations from the parliament or its committees unless the parliament has expressly provided otherwise. The Senate has resolved also 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 superior officers or to a minister. This resolution prohibits only questions asking for opinions on matters of policy and does not preclude questions asking for explanations 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. 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 requirements 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. The relevant extract will be incorporated into the Hansard

    The extract read as follows—

Public interest immunity claims

That the Senate—

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

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

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

(1) If:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies

[10:44]

CHAIR: I welcome Ms Letitia Hope, acting chief executive officer at the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies, and officers. Ms Hope, do you wish to make an opening statement?

Ms Hope : Yes, I do, thank you. Good morning. I'd like to acknowledge the traditional owners of the land on which we meet today, the Ngunnawal and Ngambri people, and pay my respects to their elders past, present and emerging. I extend that respect to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people here today, the minister, the chair of the committee and departmental officials. I would like to formally send apologies from Mr Craig Ritchie, chief executive officer of the institute, as he is unable to appear today. Today is the first time that the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies has appeared before the committee since the administrative arrangement orders signed on 19 April 2018 gave effect to the portfolio change for AIATSIS from the Department of Education and Training to the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet.

AIATSIS welcomes this portfolio change, as this move has placed the institute close to the core of Indigenous policy in the Australian government. It will better enable us to deliver on our legislative responsibilities, one of which includes advising government on the current status of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture and heritage. AIATSIS look forward to continuing the important independent work that we do and have done for over 50 years, along with strengthening the institute's advisory role and policy linkages with our new portfolio agency. Thank you, Chair. We look forward to any questions.

CHAIR: Thank you, Ms Hope. Are there any questions for Ms Hope?

Senator DODSON: No.

CHAIR: If not, Ms Hope, I thank you very much for your opening statement this morning.

Ms Hope : Thank you.

Senator DODSON: Your presentation was fantastic.

Senator Scullion: Perhaps I will give an explanation. This is the first appearance of AIATSIS at this set of estimates. I'm sure that there will be vast amounts of interest in the future. Thanks very much.

CHAIR: Thanks, Ms Hope.

Senator DODSON: Don't take the lack of questions as an indication of our interest.

Senator Scullion: There's no suggestion of that. We understand completely.