Title Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee
Australian Border Force
Database Estimates Committees
Date 08-02-2016
Committee Name Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee
Page 79
Questioner CHAIR
Lines, Sen Susan
O'Sullivan, Sen Barry
Carr, Sen Kim
Hanson-Young, Sen Sarah
Bilyk, Sen Catryna
Madigan, Sen John
Responder Mr Pezzullo
Cash, Sen Michaelia
Dr Charker
Mr Quaedvlieg
Ms Noble
Ms Tressler
Ms Briscoe
Mr Outram
Mr Williams
Ms De Veau
Ms Dunn
Carr, Sen Kim
Ms Moy
Mr Wright
Major Gen. Bottrell
Mr Kukoc
Gen. Bottrell
Mr Wilden
Ms Dacey
Mr Allen
Mr Groves
System Id committees/estimate/06e2d3df-3fe5-4bce-b155-8e43d929d5ea/0002

Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee - 08/02/2016 - Estimates - IMMIGRATION AND BORDER PROTECTION PORTFOLIO - Australian Border Force

Australian Border Force


CHAIR: We are now moving on to Australian Border Force. When we have finished with the Australian Border Force we will move to cross-portfolio issues, acknowledging that we have done both of those in connection with the opening statement earlier.

Senator LINES: Going back to the bargaining, as I indicated in an opening to a previous question, Border Force staff have rejected the government's attacks on their rights and conditions. Why is it acceptable that senior public servants and politicians should get a rise of two per cent with no trade-offs, no cuts to conditions and rights, yet when it comes to hardworking Border Force workers they are expected to accept a two per cent offer after an 18 month delay and give up significant rights?

Senator O'SULLIVAN: You should give them yours.

Mr Pezzullo : I am the employing authority. Under the act, all the employees other than the commissioner, who is an independent statutory officer, are my employees. The recent determination that flows through to statutory officers and others is not a matter that I am really competent to talk about. I can assure you that it came out of the blue and was announced to us through the standard communication that that tribunal employs.

Senator LINES: But you are competent to speak about the cuts that you expect Border Force workers to take.

Mr Pezzullo : I do not know what you are trying to link here. If you do not mind, let us break down into what I am responsible for. With the commissioner, who is the operational commander of the Border Force, we are crafting, within the government's bargaining framework and parameters, the most generous offer we can possibly put on the table, noting that this is round two and noting that the first offer was, it has to be said, resoundingly rejected—91 per cent, with a high participation rate, speaks with itself. You might not have been party to earlier proceedings over the last six months or so, but the commissioner and I are working very hard to ensure that the trade-offs that are necessarily required to ensure that productivity is enhanced in order to fit within the parameters that we are set, to ensure that the work can still be accomplished, to ensure that the least amount of reduction is effected in terms of FTE reduction, and that the most generous package within those parameters can be afforded is exactly what we are doing at the moment. I reject utterly any suggestion that we are unreasonably putting propositions to our workers to endure unreasonable cuts to conditions. We are trying to make the most generous offer we can within our parameters. As Dr Charker indicated to you before, we are in the current situation of finalising our offer, subject to the early engagements that we have had, with the second round of bargaining which is now on foot.

Senator LINES: Given that you repeated the figure—a 91 per cent No vote out of a very high participation rate—do you not think that what you are putting forward is unreasonable? If that is what you are really suggesting here, you are well out of touch.

Mr Pezzullo : You are asking me a triple negative there. The offer that we are putting is as reasonable and as generous as we can craft within the government's parameters. Initially, as I suspect you would be well aware, the most that could be offered in terms of salary by agency heads and departmental secretaries was in the vicinity of 1.5 per cent, in terms of the headline cash offer. The Minister for Employment in the Turnbull government, who happens to be sitting at the table, decided, through whatever collective process of determination you came to, Minister, to vary those parameters. I think that was quite early in your tenure, Minister.

Senator LINES: Well, let me continue with my questions. The most recent proposal contains a number of cuts to conditions, allowances and rights. It also proposes a pay system that would see people doing exactly the same work and working alongside someone else doing exactly the same work, each being paid differently. Would you be tabling these cuts if they were not prescribed in the government's bargaining policy?

Mr Pezzullo : The minister can speak for the government's policy and the government's bargaining framework. In terms of the package that we have derived: true enough, within the parameters of the framework we are seeking to make the most generous offer that we can.

The specific matters that you are starting to detail relate to a couple of issues that are in tension here. One is that you have two different agencies that have come together during the course of the bargaining period. One had a particular set of pay scales—namely, the former Customs and Border Protection Service. The former Department of Immigration and Citizenship, or the Department of Immigration and Border Protection, had a different set of pay scales. How you reconcile those scales over time; how you trade-off giving workers a general pay increase but also deal with anomalous situations of the type you have described—in some cases with quite ancient allowances that have not been reviewed for many, many years and that in some cases are not at all connected with contemporary work practices; and how you, at the same time as blending a workforce, preserve traditional benefits that have arisen through two different streams, as it were, of entitlements is very complicated, yes.

It is difficult to give you a headline response other than to say that we are trying to preserve as many benefits as we can and to make the package as generous as we can make it.

Senator LINES: Is it equitable that people get paid differently for doing exactly the same job?

Mr Pezzullo : If the officers in these so-called 'blended' teams have come from the two different historical agencies—one Customs and one immigration—then they bring with them their salaries—

Senator LINES: I am not talking about what they bring with them; I am talking about your recent proposal—

Mr Pezzullo : But we have one workforce. We are not putting a differentiated package to ex-Customs officers and ex-immigration officers.

Senator LINES: No, but you are putting a proposal that would see workers who work alongside each other receiving different rates of pay.

Mr Pezzullo : We are putting one set of pay outcomes to our staff. We are not putting, if you like, a legacy Customs pay offer and a legacy immigration pay offer at all.

Senator LINES: I appreciate that, but could you just answer my question? You are putting forward a proposal which means that two workers doing exactly the same job will be paid differently.

Mr Pezzullo : I understand the point of your question. It is not, if you like, a conscious design of the package as it is crafted. What you are asking is, 'All things being equal, is a consequence of the fact that a person of a particular Public Service classification in the Department of Immigration previously had a lower salary than a person in Customs'—unless you did a massive uplift of the salaries of former immigration officers, whether or not they had the skill, the capacity or the aptitude to attract that uplift—'such that we would be grievously in breach of the government's bargaining policy?' That is going to be a natural consequence—

Senator LINES: What? That they will have different pay?

Mr Pezzullo : No—until people improve their skill levels over time, get promoted and all the rest of it and you start to get to more equalised working arrangements.

Senator LINES: But that is not the question I asked. You said you understood my question—

Mr Pezzullo : Yes.

Senator LINES: My question was: for two people doing exactly the same job, under your proposals they would get a different monetary outcome. That is either a 'yes' or a 'no'.

Mr Pezzullo : Going into negotiations, if one person's salary is $100,000 and another person's salary is $110,000 and they both get two per cent then you can answer the mathematics of that question yourself, Senator.

Senator LINES: So the answer is 'yes', that you are proposing that workers doing the same job would receive different salaries?

Mr Pezzullo : I understand the point that has been made by others, including the union—and thank you for declaring your interest in the matter previously—making that claim. But, by definition, if you have brought a blended work team together—

Senator LINES: I am not speaking for the union.

Mr Pezzullo : I know, I—

Senator LINES: I am simply asking a question at Senate estimates, to which I am entitled to get a response.

Mr Pezzullo : You most certainly are.

Senator Cash: Senator Lines, you are getting an answer.

Mr Pezzullo : The question of wages entitlements and conditions is very complicated; it is very difficult to give yes or no answers. They cannot be doing the same job prima facie, insofar as a former Customs officer—former—who brings a different set of skills to the job that is currently being done certainly should not be docked salary and go backwards; so they are going to retain that salary. For a former Immigration officer who is asked to come up to, say, the standard of being an investigator or to operate in the new arrangements that we have and who brings, potentially, a lower salary, in terms of local management, consideration will have to be given to additional training for that officer and to supporting them to operate at the level that is expected.

Senator LINES: So are you answering yes or no to my basic question?

Mr Pezzullo : I have to give you an answer that has many more words than yes or no, I am sorry.

Senator LINES: At the end of the day, if two people are doing exactly the same job—

Mr Pezzullo : And I am saying to you that, by definition, they cannot be, because the former immigration department did a very different job from the former customs service.

Senator LINES: So you are saying there will not be anyone doing the same job as someone else, yet receiving less pay?

Mr Pezzullo : It would be impossible to see on day one that someone would be doing exactly the same job as someone else, when you have blended teams and when the immigration department did very different work from the customs service. Now, I am sorry that takes more words than simply yes or no, but that is the factual answer to your question.

Senator LINES: So, in relation to the proposed agreement, some current provisions, including current hours of work, allowances—some of which you describe as ancient—

Mr Pezzullo : Some are.

Senator LINES: and key workplace rights—for example, consultation on changes to shift rosters—will be removed from the agreement. It also creates a composite allowance that will see a number of staff lose pay. Is that correct?

Mr Pezzullo : No.

Senator LINES: No. So no-one is going to lose pay?

Mr Pezzullo : Going back to the start of that part of your question, the offer is as yet, obviously, a provisional one. As Dr Charker made clear, we have engaged in bargaining in good faith. We have raised certain new issues that attempt to deal with the concerns expressed in relation to the first offer. The union, other representatives and staff who are representing themselves have come back with issues, ideas and proposals that they wish to discuss. There is no final offer in that sense. So, when you say 'the offer that you have put on the table', it is still provisional. Does it remove, in some cases, antiquated allowances and replace them with composite arrangements? Yes. For anyone who suffers detriment as a result of that—because a composite allowance might well aggregate, in cumulative terms, a greater amount of money that was being received by an individual officer—we are prepared to look at preserving that monetary level for those officers in particular, and we have crafted a package that attempts to do that. But, over time, yes, it is our intention to move to a composite allowance which reflects modern practice. Yes.

Senator LINES: At first you said no, nobody would lose pay, and now you are saying, 'Yes, we will look at'—

Mr Pezzullo : I just said that those who, for historical reasons, might have been receiving more money in a cumulative sense, if you add up all of their allowances, versus the composite and they therefore would suffer detriment—

Senator LINES: Well, that is the question I asked you.

Mr Pezzullo : I said they would not suffer detriment. Going forward, in terms of new starters or people changing jobs, will they be required under this agreement to work under a composite allowance? The answer is yes.

Senator LINES: So new starters—

Mr Pezzullo : So how could they personally have—

Senator LINES: working alongside existing employees will get a different rate of pay.

Mr Pezzullo : Senator, as you would know, whenever you go through a transformation that involves the amalgamation of agencies, the harmonisation of pay scales and how to deal with historical allowances, you are always going to have anomalous situations which—

Senator LINES: I asked about new starters.

Mr Pezzullo : Yes. So, if a new starter comes in who has not been in either the customs service for 30 years or the immigration department for 30 years and was not the beneficiary, over time, of the accumulation of obsolete allowances—which now are better dealt with through a composite allowance which also recognises that those officers will be better supported through training and skilling in a way that they were never supported before—that new starter, yes, will go on to the new salary arrangements.

Senator LINES: Which will be less than, in some cases, the pay of existing staff.

Mr Pezzullo : As those jobs are no longer undertaken in the way that they are undertaken. But we accept that, for reasons to do with people's mortgages, and they have to pay school fees and the rest of it, we preserve their benefit, which is attached to them personally. But over time, as the nature of the work changes and as the support for those workers is radically changed in terms of support through learning, development, education and training, so they become better qualified and more effective officers for us, yes, everyone will work on the new pay scales.

Senator LINES: That is not the answer to my question. The question I asked you was: you have a new starter—

Senator Cash: Senator Lines, I do not think you can dictate the answer to your questions!

If this agreement gets up, will they be on different rates of pay, where the new starter could conceivably be earning less? That is just a yes-no. Please do not repeat the preamble to the last time I asked this question.

Mr Pezzullo : As we go through the transitional arrangements—

CHAIR: Can I just interrupt here. Are these in the line of hypothetical questions? What might happen in the future, what might be offered, what might be accepted?

Mr Pezzullo : Not entirely.

Senator LINES: I do not think he needs your protection, Senator Macdonald.

CHAIR: I am not trying to protect him. I am trying to move the committee along. If we are just going to get the same question, which is a question not in accordance with standing orders—

Mr Pezzullo : It is not entirely hypothetical. To Senator Lines's point, there is a draft proposal on the table which is the subject of bargaining. It is on the table in quite detailed terms. Dr Charker?

Dr Charker : Yes, very—clause by clause.

Mr Pezzullo : So these are not entirely hypothetical questions. They attach to both current workers—

CHAIR: Well, can you answer them, then? It seems a simple question. If someone gets this pay and someone gets that pay and they do the same job, there is a difference, yes.

Senator LINES: Thank you, Senator.

Senator Cash: Chair, with all due respect to the secretary, the department of immigration and the former Customs, now the Australian Border Force, are in a very unique position because you do have the combining of two different portfolios into one. The secretary is merely trying to contextualise the answers to the questions.

Senator LINES: I understand the contextualisation. I am merely trying to get an answer to the question that I put—pretty simple.

Senator Cash: And I believe the secretary has given you that answer. You many not like the answer—

Senator LINES: So I take it the answer to that is yes. The answer to that is yes?

Mr Pezzullo : That new starters will go on to whatever emerges—

Senator LINES: Which may be less. Which may be less than current staff.

Mr Pezzullo : Compared to what? I am sorry. A new starter will not be working at the level of experience, aptitude and capability that our legacy workforce has.

Senator LINES: All right. Let me ask you another question. If an existing staff member who is not on the composite rate did HDA or went and did a secondment for a period of time, doing another job, when that person comes back to their substantive position, will they go onto the composite rate?

Mr Pezzullo : That is getting very hypothetical. For the period that they are doing HDA, would they be the beneficiary of—

Senator LINES: No, I am not asking about the HDA. I think I am being very clear here. Let us say I work for the agency. I have looked at the current proposals. I either go on HDA or take a secondment for a short period of time to do another job. When I go back to my substantive position, if these arrangements get up, will I go onto the composite rates?

Mr Pezzullo : I see. Thank you. If, at the time that the agreement is struck, you are a worker who is listed as having your benefits preserved, you will never lose those benefits for the period of your tenure. If you are not entitled because we have not recognised—

Senator LINES: Sure. Let us just talk about those whose benefits you have preserved. They do HDA and they come back; what happens?

Mr Pezzullo : They will keep their old allowances.

Senator LINES: You said the preserved benefits were subject to discussion. So you are not guaranteeing them outright?

Mr Pezzullo : We are not guaranteeing them outright, because we are in good-faith negotiations. But we have indicated that because we recognise, particularly on the legacy—as we call it—Customs side, there will be officers who have been on allowances for a period of time that will no longer be covered by the composite allowance. The commissioner and I recognise that they have mortgages and they have other living expenses, so they will be preserved. We have not finalised the agreement, obviously. But we have made a very clear commitment that we are not going to resile from—that that preservation process will be put in place.

Senator LINES: But not for all staff? Presumably, that is part of the negotiation.

Mr Pezzullo : It is part of the negotiation, and in the end it will go to the allowances themselves, all named allowances that go back in time to various previous agreements; whether a person is on them currently; and how long they have been on them. They cannot have been on them for a day and then get a windfall forever. We will have to work through that on a case-by-case basis.

Senator LINES: One of the difficult issues here is taking away the rights of workers to have a say in rostering provisions, providing certainty around working hours. Obviously, that impacts on families. The changes that you are proposing will mean that people can have their rosters changed at short notice and they will not get a say in those changes. That is not the sort of change you would—

Mr Pezzullo : I am not sure that is right. I will just check. I think this goes to the question of consultation around—

CHAIR: Again, it seems to me you are involved in a negotiation, and you are being asked here for definitive answers on things you are going to negotiate.

Senator LINES: No, the government has put its views on the table, so there is a view there about roster change.

Senator Cash: Senator Lines, the government has a bargaining framework under which departments then negotiate. I think the point the chair is making, though, might hopefully bring an end to this line of questioning. This is currently the subject of negotiation. That is it. Everything you are saying is the subject of a negotiation through the bargaining representatives. You are right; the agreement may be voted down. That is what a negotiation and then going to a vote are all about.

Senator LINES: I was asking about the government's proposals, which I understood—

Senator Cash: The government does not have proposals.

Senator LINES: from the officials are almost finals. Do those proposals include a shortened consultation around rosters?

Senator Cash: Sorry, Senator Lines, the government does not have any proposals. That is not our role.

Senator LINES: It is very sensitive, obviously. We have the minister interfering and we have the chair interfering.

Senator Cash: No, no. I am happy to sit back and listen—

CHAIR: We are not doing the negotiations.

Senator Cash: but when you get something blatantly wrong I feel that I should step in to ensure that, if you are going to ask—

Senator LINES: I am asking about the government's proposals.

Senator Cash: Senator Lines, I am sure you have been the subject of negotiations before. You would therefore, I hope, understand that the government presents the framework in which the varying departments then enter into the negotiations, so the government does not put proposals as such in relation to agreements on the table. If you want to reframe your question in terms of the department's current proposals then that is fine, but the government does not have any proposals. We have a bargaining framework. That is it.

CHAIR: Did I hear someone say the department has a written offer on the table?

Mr Pezzullo : We have a provisional offer because it is the subject of bargaining.

Senator Cash: It is the subject of bargaining at the moment.

Senator LINES: But does that include—

CHAIR: It is public knowledge?

Mr Pezzullo : I do not know that it is public.

Senator LINES: Does it include shortened roster—

CHAIR: I do not think it is appropriate for estimates committees to start being the negotiator between the unions and the government in this—

Senator Cash: It is the role of the bargaining representatives.

Senator LINES: I am not negotiating; I am just asking the questions. I ask the question: does the department have a proposal which includes shortened consultation around rosters?

Mr Pezzullo : There is a tabled offer—it is not public, to answer the chair's part of the question—that deals with consultation around—

CHAIR: A tabled offer that the employers and their unions are aware of?

Senator Cash: Correct.

CHAIR: So it is public as far as those—

Mr Pezzullo : To the bargaining parties.

CHAIR: Well, you should just refer—anyhow, it is not for me to answer your questions. Senator Lines, I have been more than generous. You have had well over your 15 minutes. You can come back if you are not finished.

Senator LINES: That is my last question, so if I could get it answered—

CHAIR: Yes, okay.

Senator LINES: Are there proposals on the table which look to shortened consultation around rosters?

Mr Pezzullo : I am not sure that I agree that it is shortened, but I might ask Dr Charker just to describe it in neutral terms. What is the consultative mechanism that we are proposing?

Dr Charker : We essentially are proposing to not duplicate in multiple areas in the proposed EA the classical Fair Work provisions around consultation required of us. That does not mean, however, that there will not be consultation around rostering or that it will be shortened at all. In fact, we have gone to some lengths to ensure that genuine consultation is explicitly named in the draft enterprise agreement for any sort of major or significant change which could affect our workforce. Changing a rostering arrangement is a very significant change, as you have noted, for shift workers, so our full expectation—and this has been discussed—would be that that consultation clause would certainly be triggered on the event of a proposal to change a roster. However, we are not proposing to duplicate the consultation provisions several times within the draft EA in an attempt to try to cover all the possible areas in which it could be enlivened.

Senator LINES: How many jobs would the department need to cut to meet the requirements of the government's bargaining policies?

Senator Cash: Senator Lines, if you are going to put questions to the officials, you could at least frame them correctly. Again, the government sets the framework.

Senator LINES: How many jobs is the department planning to shed?

Mr Pezzullo : As I said in my statement to this committee last October, which was on the eve of the putting of the first offer, we calculated that over the life of the agreement the first offer—that is to say the rejected offer—would result in FTE reductions of 184. And, as I said on the record this morning in my opening statement to this hearing of the committee, a more generous offer logically will require greater reductions, but the commissioner and I are working very hard to keep those reductions to an absolute minimum.

Senator LINES: Thanks. Thanks for the indulgence, Senator Macdonald.

Senator Cash: Chair, could I just ensure that the record correctly reflects something that Senator Lines referred to when she first opened this line of questioning. She referred to the two per cent pay rise that had flowed on to departmental heads—obviously secretaries. I am sure Senator Lines is aware that that two per cent is set by an independent tribunal.

Senator KIM CARR: Mr Pezzullo, I did not quite catch the last hedge there. I am told that you are required to remove 680 people to meet the government's bargaining framework at two per cent. Is that correct?

Mr Pezzullo : I cannot recall any numbers in that area.

Senator KIM CARR: 680. Can you confirm that number. Is that correct or otherwise?

Mr Pezzullo : I will ask Dr Charker to see if we have done any sorts of calculations, noting that the final position has not yet been settled with the bargaining parties.

Senator KIM CARR: Sure, but has the figure of 680 been used anywhere within the department?

Dr Charker : Yes. On our current calculations, as the secretary has already indicated today, for the current new proposal that is in negotiations at the moment, a combination of some productivity savings and job losses of 680 would be required to fund it. We would anticipate that many—certainly as many as possible, at least—would be gained through natural attrition, but I cannot give you specific numbers on that.

Senator KIM CARR: Thank you.

CHAIR: Does anyone have questions on the Australian Border Force as such?

Senator KIM CARR: Yes, I do. Commissioner, perhaps you could enlighten me here. I saw a report that it cost $6 million to rebadge the Australian Border Force. Is that correct? I saw the report; that is correct, but the cost of $6 million?

Mr Quaedvlieg : I will ask either the chief operating officer or the chief financial officer to come and talk to you about the breakdown of that. There was a degree of rebranding that was required in terms of uniforms and signage and way finders et cetera at the airports. Six million dollars is part of that, but I will just ask one of our financial people to step you through very quickly what the actual costs were.

Senator KIM CARR: Thank you.

Mr Quaedvlieg : Deputy Secretary Rachel Noble can assist you with that.

Ms Noble : That is correct. It is $6.3 million.

Senator KIM CARR: What was the $6.3 million spent on?

Ms Noble : To break it down: it was spent on all of the uniforms, including the protective equipment for Border Force officers; vehicle, aircraft and vessel labelling or signage; airport, seaport and wharf signs and building signs, including onshore detention centres; public information materials; forms, stationery and identification tags; and some corporate gifts.

Senator KIM CARR: So it was mostly on uniforms and signs. Is that the broad areas?

Mr Quaedvlieg : Yes, it is.

Senator KIM CARR: Refresh my memory on the uniforms. Are they made in Australia?

Mr Quaedvlieg : I will take that on notice. I think I saw a label, actually. They may have been, but I will take that on notice.

Senator KIM CARR: Thank you. I will be pleased if they are.

Mr Quaedvlieg : I will come back to you on that one.

Senator KIM CARR: And, if they are not, a whole series of other questions flow from that. I also saw a report that you spent $16,000 on flags. Is that true?

Ms Noble : I have to take that on notice.

Mr Quaedvlieg : I have no idea. I have not seen that expenditure, but we will take it on notice just to be absolutely 100 per cent sure. There was a requirement to change the Customs flag to a Border Force flag. Whether that cost $16,000 I do not know.

Senator KIM CARR: And the uniforms? What do they cost?

Mr Quaedvlieg : I think they make up the bulk of the $6 million. I think it is around five, but I will just get—

Senator KIM CARR: I am told 5.6. Would that be correct?

Ms Noble : I have a breakdown of the uniforms including the protective equipment, which in 2014-15 was $6.12 million, and in 2015-16 it was $180,000, making a total of $6.3 million.

Senator O'SULLIVAN: Do you mind if I have some qualifying questions?

Senator KIM CARR: Yes, sure.

Senator O'SULLIVAN: Would that have included the figure for what would have been expended on those sorts of things anyway in a normal annual event? If so, do you have a sense—

Mr Quaedvlieg : No, not entirely. This required a changeover of uniform for 5000-odd staff, I think it was. There was a critical mass expenditure which was the one-off uniform change over from what was an old Customs uniform to a uniform for the Australian Border Force.

Senator O'SULLIVAN: It still would have included annual expenditure in that category. It would not be separated, would it?

Mr Quaedvlieg : I think it would be offset because we would not then spend this financial year—

Senator O'SULLIVAN: That is similar to what I am saying. So there would be a cost each year for uniforms, flags, badging and so on.

Mr Quaedvlieg : There is an ongoing cost—

Senator O'SULLIVAN: And it is embedded in that figure.

Ms Noble : I think the indication is the 2015-16 figures, which are 180,000. I need to correct my testimony. I apologise. That list that I read out before actually totals $9.864 million. The $6.3 million refers to the uniforms and protective equipment. I apologise.

Senator KIM CARR: I would like a list, if I could please, of the where that $9.6 million comes from and how you get to that figure. I am hearing that the ABF spent $25,000 on branded notebooks. Is that true?

Ms Noble : We will have to take that on notice. I do not have that breakdown in front of me.

Senator KIM CARR: I am told that $10,000 was paid to a private contractor to destroy the old stationery. Is that true?

Ms Tressler : I am Charlotte Tressler, FAS Corporate Services Division and the portfolio change and reform division. That is actually incorrect. Any old stationery was destroyed internally by the department at no additional cost. That $10,000 was the purchase cost for envelopes.

Senator KIM CARR: Oh, it was for envelopes?

Ms Tressler : Yes.

Senator KIM CARR: I see. It is a lot of envelopes.

Senator O'SULLIVAN: It is less than what you would spend in your office in a year.

Ms Tressler : There were around 82 boxes.

Senator KIM CARR: But mine has particularly valuable information provided to the public. Is that correct: $10,000 on envelopes?

Ms Tressler : That is correct. It was around 82 boxes.

Senator KIM CARR: The $9.6 million is all in this financial year, is it?

Ms Tressler : No, it was $9.864 million, and it is since 2014-15 and 2015-16.

Senator KIM CARR: Does border enforcement come into this section?

Mr Quaedvlieg : No, it is in a later segment.

Senator KIM CARR: I will come back to that later. I think that is all I have for administrative matters. Do we have any word from and with regard to the MV Portland? Is there any information provided that is coming our way?

Mr Quaedvlieg : I have just been handed a document, which I have not yet read. What date were you inquiring about in relation to the activity of—

Senator KIM CARR: The matters I referred to were on 13 January this year.

Mr Quaedvlieg : The information that has just been given to me is on 12 January this year. ABF officers were on board the MV Portlandwhere they conducted outward vessel clearances.

Senator KIM CARR: They conducted outward vessel clearances? So the deposed crew were cleared were they?

Mr Quaedvlieg : The vessel departed on 13 January.

Senator KIM CARR: Yes.

Mr Quaedvlieg : All crew on that vessel, comprising 10 Australian and six Indian crew members were immigration clear prior to departure. The six international crew members all held maritime crew visas.

Senator KIM CARR: I want to be clear about this: you are saying that as far as your office is concerned, all of the deposed crew were cleared by customs and immigration officials?

Mr Quaedvlieg : For clarity and precision, the information I have before me is that when the vessel MV Portland departed Australian waters on 13 January, there were 16 crew on board. That compromised 10 Australian crew members and six Indian crew members. The latter cohort, the Indian crew members, all held maritime crew visas. That crew was immigration cleared.

Senator KIM CARR: That is the people going out of the country?

Mr Quaedvlieg : That is correct.

Senator KIM CARR: I am interested to know what procedures were put in place for the crew that were taken off the vessel.

Mr Quaedvlieg : Understood, Senator. I am scanning this document as I respond to your questions, and that is not contained in this advice. Can I further take that on notice and seek to get back to you prior to the end of this?

Senator KIM CARR: Right. That was the point of the question. Those people, I am told, are concerned about what their status is—not having been officially recognised as re-entering the country.

Mr Quaedvlieg : I understand. You are interested in the inbound clearance.

Senator KIM CARR: And whether or not they have actually been cleared by an authorised Customs officer to re-enter Australia.

Mr Quaedvlieg : I understand. I will take that on notice.

Senator KIM CARR: Of the crew that departed, what dates were their visas issued?

Mr Quaedvlieg : I do not have that information before me. I will take that on notice.

Senator KIM CARR: You may not want to name individuals, but I would like to know the dates on which their visas were processed. Were they processed individually and on a particular day, or were they processed at different dates?

Mr Quaedvlieg : When you say processed do you mean the date of issue?

Senator KIM CARR: Yes.

Mr Quaedvlieg : I will get the department to track that answer down for you.

Senator KIM CARR: Where were they issued, and was there a senior officer involved in the processing of those visas?

Mr Quaedvlieg : We will take all those subsets on notice.

Senator KIM CARR: Did any senior departmental officer have contact with the visa processing staff about the issuing of those visas? I want to know the process by which the visas were issued and if there was any contact with any minister's office.

Mr Quaedvlieg : I will take that on notice.

Senator KIM CARR: What was the nature of that ministerial involvement?

Mr Quaedvlieg : Yes.

Senator KIM CARR: With regard to the crew, is it fair to describe the work as being highly specialised?

Mr Quaedvlieg : I do not think I am in a position to give you a factual answer. I do not know what their work is.

Senator KIM CARR: I would be interested to know what types of visas were issued then.

Mr Quaedvlieg : They were MCVs—maritime crew visas.

Senator KIM CARR: That was the only visa issued?

Mr Quaedvlieg : Yes, I think it is subclass 988.

Senator KIM CARR: Is the S400 visa the one that is referred to? Is that the same visa?

Mr Quaedvlieg : I am not sure. You are asking about the maritime crew visas—

Senator KIM CARR: Yes. In what country did they apply for those visas?

Mr Quaedvlieg : We will take that on as a subset.

Senator KIM CARR: What date did they apply?

Mr Quaedvlieg : I think you have asked for that before?

Senator KIM CARR: I mean the date on which the applications were made, as distinct from the date on which they were processed.

Mr Quaedvlieg : I understand.

CHAIR: Do you deal with visas?

Mr Quaedvlieg : In terms of the issuance of the visa it is departmental. We are just an enforcement, but in the absence of First Assistant Secretary Jim Williams, whose division looks after this area, I will take the questions on notice on his behalf.

CHAIR: Okay, we are coming to those areas later.

Senator KIM CARR: On the issue of the riot at Christmas Island in December—

Mr Quaedvlieg : It was November.

Senator KIM CARR: There was no incident on 9 December at the facilities on Christmas Island?

Mr Quaedvlieg : I will just check. If you are speaking of the major disturbance, that was on 9 November. I will check with the Deputy Commissioner of Operations on whether there was another disturbance.

Senator KIM CARR: Okay, my notes could simply be wrong.

Mr Quaedvlieg : They would appear to be. I suggest to you that they are wrong. It is probably 9 November that you are looking for.

Senator KIM CARR: What is the status of the investigation into the circumstances regarding that incident if, as you say, it was 9 November?

Mr Quaedvlieg : It is a two-part answer to that. The investigation in relation to the conduct of alleged criminal acts in terms of damage, assaults or carrying on in an affray are matters that you should put to the Australian Federal Police. They have carriage and lead on that investigation. In terms of a review that was conducted both by the service provider, Serco, and the independent assurance function that the secretary spoke of at the opening of this hearing, under the Integrity, Security and Assurance Division, those internal reviews have been undertaken. A number of recommendations were put to the secretary and me in terms of improvements at the facility, and those have been then translated into an implementation plan and they are in the process of being implemented. They go to issues of better use of intelligence, better governance arrangements and hardening of facilities.

Senator KIM CARR: What has the cost been to repair the facility?

Mr Quaedvlieg : The latest estimation I saw was $10 million.

Senator KIM CARR: Does that include the hardening of the facility or is that an additional expense?

Mr Quaedvlieg : I believe not. I might ask Deputy Commissioner Cindy Briscoe to break that down. I think the $10 million label was in terms of the remediation of the damage that was imposed upon the facility, and I think the hardening may be over and above it. But I am not sure. I will just defer to Deputy Commissioner Briscoe.

Ms Briscoe : Immediately following the disturbance, our staff and contractors did an on-site assessment and estimated the damage to be in the order of $10 million. To date, we have expended $3.4 million on rectification, and further estimates to get to full recovery would be in the order of about $7.6 million. That does not include the hardening.

Senator KIM CARR: How much extra do you wish to spend on the facility then to do the hardening, as you describe it?

Ms Briscoe : I do not have that information to hand. I can take that on notice.

Senator KIM CARR: What is the nature of the additional work that you want to undertake?

Ms Briscoe : Installation of security gates over a range of roller doors; some more heavy-duty furniture and the attachment of the furniture; other shutters, particularly around medical facilities; security screening; fencing; an upgrade of the inner perimeter fence. The estimate of those works is $7 million, but they are all just proposed and estimates at this point.

Senator KIM CARR: I presume that normal public works approval processes will need to be undertaken for that to be extended?

Ms Briscoe : I am not entirely sure if those works will be subject to the Public Works Committee.

Senator KIM CARR: Can you take that on notice?

Ms Briscoe : I can take that on notice.

Mr Quaedvlieg : To answer your question, the normal Commonwealth procurement guidelines will be followed. I do not think the quantity is of such a nature that it requires a Public Works Committee approval, but the normal Commonwealth procurement approval guidelines will apply.

Senator KIM CARR: Is the centre now fully operational?

Mr Quaedvlieg : Yes, it is fully operational. There are still areas to be remediated—some of the common areas to bring back to the amenity that they were before—but the centre was fully operational in the days after the disturbance.

Senator KIM CARR: I understand that some people were transferred to mainland detention facilities. Are all the detainees now back on the island?

Mr Quaedvlieg : No, they are not. Let me qualify your premise. A number of persons were removed from Christmas Island, or from the North West facility. A number were placed or re-placed into detention facilities onshore; others were placed into correctional facilities to manage them until we had the centre back under control and back into full operation. Not all of those persons have been returned to North West Point. We did transport a number of detainees off the island. Deputy Commissioner of Operations may have more detail if you are interested in those, but we did take a number off the island and put them in various facilities around the country.

Senator KIM CARR: Is it your expectation they will be returned to Christmas Island?

Mr Quaedvlieg : Not necessarily. Decisions in relation to placement are dynamic. They go to issues of risk, behaviour, context, environment, mood, atmosphere et cetera. Some may be returned. North West Point is one of our most secure facilities and certainly helps us with managing what we call the high to extreme risk cohort. Certainly it features within our future plans for detention. But again, as I say, some of those persons who were moved off the island may have a different security rating or risk rating now. Some may have been removed offshore. If you are asking me, 'Are all 200-odd detainees that were on the island at the time of the disturbance to be returned to the island?' I would say the answer is no.

Senator KIM CARR: Do you have a breakdown of the countries of citizens who were involved in the incident?

Mr Quaedvlieg : In the incident?

Senator KIM CARR: Yes.

Mr Quaedvlieg : Yes, we do. Let me preface my answer: of the people involved in the incident—there were around 200 detainees on island, or just shy; I think there were 196 to 198—about 180 participated in the disturbance. It was a big cohort. There was obviously a hardcore cell that actually behaved more egregiously than others, but we certainly have a breakdown by nationality of everyone that was on the island, in the facility, at the time.

Senator KIM CARR: From those 108, how many were New Zealanders?

Mr Quaedvlieg : I am going from memory now, but this is sort of rough: I think there were around 50 odd New Zealanders in the cohort at the time, so about a quarter of the cohort were New Zealanders.

Senator KIM CARR: Of the people involved in the incident—because what you are saying is that of 200 folks, 108 were actually involved in the incident—that is only half.

Mr Quaedvlieg : 180 were involved in the incident.

Senator KIM CARR: 180? Not a 108?

Mr Quaedvlieg : 180 of the 200. Yes, it was quite a large disturbance.

Senator KIM CARR: I see.

Mr Quaedvlieg : To answer your question more precisely, of the quarter or so of New Zealanders who were in that cohort, maybe a dozen or so were involved in the hardcore group. These are not precise figures but I am trying to give you some sense of the premise of your question.

Senator KIM CARR: There was one person, Mr Fazel Chegeni, who I understand escaped the facility—is that correct?

Mr Quaedvlieg : Mr Chegeni escaped the facility on the Saturday prior to the disturbance; yes, that is correct.

Senator KIM CARR: How did that happen?

Mr Quaedvlieg : An number of converging circumstances, as is often the case with escapes. Our service provider conducted its own review and it found some faults, which I do not intend to canvas on the public record for reasons you can appreciate. But, it again goes to the issue of technology, training and various other protocols that could have been done better. With the convergence of those circumstances, Mr Chegeni managed to escape.

Senator KIM CARR: I am told that two of the Serco guards in the control room in the detention centre at the time of the escape had not performed in this role before. Was that one of the findings of the review?

Mr Quaedvlieg : I cannot recall exactly; but what I can indicate to you is that human fault was part of the circumstances that led to the escape, without going into the precise details.

Senator KIM CARR: It has been suggested that perhaps there was a breakdown in the training arrangements—would that be a fair comment?

Mr Quaedvlieg : My understanding is that it was not so much the training, it was the operation of the centre on the evening that Mr Chegeni escaped. Not so much training, and I cannot comment on the training of the individual officers involved, but it would appear that their manner of operation on the evening certainly contributed to the escape.

Senator KIM CARR: This facility is described as a maximum security facility, is it?

Mr Quaedvlieg : I would not term it as a maximum security facility, if you are talking in comparison to correctional facilities, no. It is certainly at the higher end of our security arrangements in terms of detention, but is any centre infallible in terms of escape? The answer is no.

Senator KIM CARR: How many people have escaped from it?

Mr Quaedvlieg : From North West Point, very, very few—less than a handful. It is very rare that persons escape from this particular facility. I think there was a riot sometime in mid-2000 that a number of persons breached it and got out, but they did not escape as such.

Senator KIM CARR: Given the location of Christmas Island, no-one has gotten off the island, have they?

Mr Quaedvlieg : No-one has got off the island.

Senator KIM CARR: How many detainees are currently on onshore detention, including on Christmas Island?

Mr Quaedvlieg : In totality, as of the end of December figures, there are 1,792 detainees on onshore detention.

Senator KIM CARR: How many of them are children?

Mr Quaedvlieg : I will ask Deputy Commissioner Briscoe to respond to that, but just let me chapeau the response. There are two cohorts of children currently on onshore detention. By far the largest cohort are those of transitory persons. That has been dealt with in detail today. They are due to be returned to Nauru at some point. In terms of non-transitory persons, I think we are talking less than 10. I think there is about eight or so, but I will get Deputy Commissioner Briscoe to give you that precision.

Ms Briscoe : So the number in held detention is 86 and the number of transitory persons subject to return to Nauru is 69 of those 86.

Senator KIM CARR: Thank you. How many are unaccompanied minors?

Ms Briscoe : I will have to check that on notice. There may be one, but I will need to double-check that.

Senator KIM CARR: How many people who are in detention are due to have their visas cancelled or have had their visas cancelled on character grounds?

Mr Quaedvlieg : Unless we have that information to hand, I think we can come back to you fairly swiftly with that, potentially before the close of day. I am just checking the deputies on my left and right.

Mr Outram : In terms of the section, it is 501.

Senator KIM CARR: Sorry?

Mr Outram : Section 501, character cancellations. Is that what you are referring to?

Senator KIM CARR: Yes. How many were there?

Mr Outram : I can do it centre by centre: at Villawood, 147; at Maribyrnong IDC, 31; at Christmas Island, 75; at Yongah Hill, 106; at Perth IDC, 13; at Brisbane ITA, 14; at Wickham Point APOD, 16; at Perth IRH, one; and at Melbourne ITA, two. I am sorry I have not got the total there, but that is the number that we have.

Senator KIM CARR: How many of those are New Zealand citizens?

Mr Outram : I should qualify that these numbers as of 31 December. I cannot say how many of these are in the 501 cohort. We could probably come to that. There are 183 New Zealand citizens in onshore detention facilities. Most of those would be, I suspect, in the 501 cohort.

Senator KIM CARR: How long have they been there?

Mr Outram : I could not give you a precise number. Obviously, it is case by case.

Senator KIM CARR: You must have some statistic of it.

Mr Outram : I do not have a particular breakdown for the New Zealand cohort.

Senator KIM CARR: If you could find that out for me; and how many of those, for instance, have been detained since the last estimates.

Mr Outram : I will take that on notice.

Senator KIM CARR: Thank you. I am interested to know the average length of stay in detention, particularly for people who have had mandatory cancellation of visas on character grounds.

Mr Outram : What I can say in aggregate—I cannot break these down to particular cohorts—is that, at 30 December, the average time for people in held detention facilities was 445 days.

Senator KIM CARR: That is all onshore, isn't it?

Mr Outram : That is all onshore.

Senator KIM CARR: If we go back to what you told us in October: from 1 November 2014 to 30 September 2015, there were 146 New Zealand citizens who had been removed. Can you provide an update on those figures?

Mr Outram : I can. Just bear with me one second. Sorry, removals going back to what point?

Senator KIM CARR: The advice that we were given in October was from 1 November 2014 through to 30 September 2015. I am looking for an update on those statistics.

Mr Outram : If I can just take that one on notice. I will probably come back to you very quickly, but I will just need to do that.

Senator KIM CARR: Thank you. Given the level of interest this has generated across the Tasman and here in the Australian media, I noticed there were some comments from New Zealand MPs about this matter. Of the 146 who were removed, had they all served custodial sentences in Australia?

Mr Outram : The 106 removed between 1 November 2014 and—

Senator KIM CARR: Yes, and the 30 September 2015.

Mr Outram : Unless the deputy commissioner happens to have that to hand, I think we might need to take that on notice.

Senator KIM CARR: If you could, what is the pattern in terms of duration of sentence?

Mr Outram : The legal parameters in section 5 are what obviously set the threshold trigger for section 501, which is the 12 months jail term.

Senator KIM CARR: So they are all in excess of 12 months?

Mr Outram : Yes, and I may defer to the legal team on this, but there are two parts to the provision. One is based on a prison sentence for a particular kind of offence—for example, including child sex offences. The other one is a character cancellation provision. We would have to work on the breakdown of those numbers.

Mr Williams : The section 501 power to cancel is enlivened in a mandatory sense if the person has been convicted for a crime and sentenced to 12 months or several crimes that add up to more than 12 months imprisonment. And there are some other provisions around behaviour that give rise to a discretionary cancellation power.

Senator KIM CARR: So you do not have to serve 12 months to invoke the discretionary powers?

Mr Williams : That is right. But most of the cases are the mandatory cases that have served 12 months or more.

Senator KIM CARR: Have any of those that are currently being detained not served a custodial sentence of 12 months?

Mr Williams : It is possible there might be some who are subject to discretionary cancellation. We would have to check.

Senator KIM CARR: Can you give me that information as to how many?

Mr Williams : Sure.

Senator KIM CARR: How are they determined? Can you give me a list of the criteria for the determination?

Mr Williams : We can do that on notice.

Senator KIM CARR: I am told that there are over 500 cancellations for people currently incarcerated—is that the number? Are there over 500?

Mr Williams : I might defer to my Border Force colleagues.

Senator KIM CARR: How many cancellations are you anticipating will have to apply?

Mr Outram : That is a different question.

Mr Quaedvlieg : Sorry, Senator, just to be precise—you have two questions there. One is how many 501 cancellations are currently held in detention, and then you asked about prospective cancellations.

Senator KIM CARR: Yes. You must have a rough—

Mr Quaedvlieg : I might defer to Assistant Deputy Secretary Williams in the first instance for the latter question and that will give the Deputy Commissioner, Operations time to look up how many 501s we currently have in detention.

Mr Outram : That is the list that I read to you in terms of how many we have held in detention. I have already provided that.

Senator KIM CARR: I am interested to know are there any other folks in jail that may well have this provision applied to them?

Mr Pezzullo : The answer is yes.

Senator KIM CARR: How many would that be?

Mr Pezzullo : Just dealing with the New Zealand case alone, on average approximately 30 persons come out of prison a month who have served prison sentences of that amount or more. For so long as the law is written in the way that it is written we will be considering their applications for a reversal of the cancellation for an indefinite period going forward, for so long as there are people in jail.

Senator KIM CARR: When did this provision become law?

Mr Pezzullo : If my memory serves me correctly, and Mr Williams and others will correct me, I think the parliament passed the laws in December 2014. Royal assent might have been some period after that, in the January-February timeframe of 2015, and so it has been on the statute books for approximately a year.

Senator KIM CARR: That is what I mean, so this is a relatively new provision?

Mr Pezzullo : About a year or so.

Mr Williams : That is correct.

Senator KIM CARR: Is the 30 people coming out a month the number that we could assume is appropriate for this 501 cancellation? Is that 30 people in total in Australia leaving jail every month, roughly.

Mr Pezzullo : Roughly, yes. We have already taken on notice how many are held in detention as of today, the day that you are asking the question, effectively going back to 30 September; we have already taken on notice how many New Zealand citizens have been removed, so that is the other part of the question that we have taken on notice; and in terms of as best as we can advise on notice, and I hate to use this term, there is stock of the population if you like that we know to be in prison who will trigger a mandatory cancellation upon serving their 12 months. We will also take that on notice and come back to you.

Senator KIM CARR: Have there been any appeals against section 501?

Mr Pezzullo : There have certainly been some cases that go to 501 as a matter of fact. Whether the specific mandatory cancellation matter has been litigated I will need to remind myself. I will take advice from the chief lawyer. I am reminded that 501 has been the subject of appeal all the way to the High Court in terms of the application of the powers that are enlivened under 501. The Crown won that case in the High Court.

Senator KIM CARR: When was that resolved?

Ms De Veau : The case of Mr Vella was two applications in the High Court of recent months. One was in October; one was in November. One related to an appeal in relation to a Federal Court case where Mr Vella was unsuccessful in an attempt to have a character cancellation based on an association ground, so it was not a mandatory case. It was a discretionary case and a decision of the minister. He sought to appeal that case in the High Court and sought special leave. That was refused. He then sought to institute proceedings to have the High Court, about a month later, consider it in original jurisdiction, and again that decision was refused by the court as well.

Senator KIM CARR: So there was no decision of the court; it was just a refusal of leave.

Ms De Veau : The first one related to a refusal to consider out of time. The other was a refusal for special leave.

Mr Pezzullo : The first decision, in effect, meant that the Federal Court's earlier decision remained on foot, which means that the minister's decision to cancel this person's visa remains substantive.

Senator KIM CARR: I am wondering if the High Court has considered the constitutionality of these provisions of the legislation?

CHAIR: Perhaps the lawyer could explain what special leave to appeal to the High Court—

Senator KIM CARR: I understand what special leave means. I am asking a specific question. Has the High Court considered the constitutionality of section 501?

Ms De Veau : The constitutionality of the provision was one of the grounds that Mr Vella sought to have adjudicated upon in the High Court. That leave was refused. I am unaware of the court considering in a full hearing the constitutional question of the mandatory provisions. Indeed, Mr Vella's, of course, was not a mandatory provision—it was the application of 501 on character grounds—but a discretionary ministerial decision based on character by criminal association rather than, I think, the particular provision that you are concerned with, which is the mandatory cancellation based on imprisonment.

Mr Pezzullo : I think it is also worth pointing out—Ms De Veau will add to my understanding of these matters—that the statutory construction under 501 has itself evolved over time. Cancellation provisions on character grounds have been in the Migration Act for as long as we have had a Migration Act. To be fully comprehensive in responding to your question: I think it is fair to say that there are many cases on the books that go to earlier forms of cancellation. As I understand it, they have always upheld the constitutionality of general cancellation. As for the specific construction of 501 as it is contemporarily expressed, that was dealt with in the way that Ms De Veau has described it in the Vella case. But the general question of the constitutional basis for dealing with what the Constitution terms 'aliens' is the subject of many cases going back some decades.

Senator KIM CARR: Has there been a right of appeal not to the court but to the minister for any administrative action the department has taken on a cancellation on 501 character grounds?

Mr Pezzullo : Yes indeed, the statute is in fact construed in those terms. If you serve a prison sentence of 12 months or more or you are convicted of any form of child sex offence, the law states that your visa is cancelled. Effectively, as you walk out of the prison, you are an unlawful noncitizen. But the statute also provides for—Ms De Veau will remind me whether it is named to the minister or something that he has chosen not to delegate—the minister to have the power to consider what is called a revocation of that mandatory cancellation. He has advice put to him by the department about the extenuating or exceptional circumstances that might be applied. He exercises his judgement and discretion under 501 as to whether to decide that the cancellation remains on foot or to revoke it, in which case that person is able to remain in Australia. Perhaps the way the statute is construed is better explained by Ms De Veau.

CHAIR: Is that the 501 visa you are talking about?

Mr Pezzullo : Or the 501 power to cancel a visa.

Ms De Veau : Section 501 deals with the refusal of a visa or cancellation of a visa on character grounds. That is the starting position. It can be done by the minister's delegate or it can be done by the minister. Different circumstances are attached to each. One relates to 'with natural justice'; the other is in circumstances where natural justice does not need to be afforded to the position. Of course, both types of decisions are administrative and the subject of judicial review. In relation to the mandatory provisions, which are the newer provisions that I think Senator Carr has been referring to, the secretary is correct in saying that built into the legislation is an ability to seek for the minister to make a decision to revoke the automatic application of the provisions. That happens frequently and indeed is also a decision that is subject to review.

Senator KIM CARR: How many times has that happened? Given that these are new provisions—since January last year—how many times in the last year has the appeal provision through the minister been exercised?

Mr Pezzullo : I might ask Mr Williams or Ms Dunn if she has the information. We would have for you either directly now or on notice later this evening the number of mandatory cancellations that have been effected since, I think, February 2015.

Senator KIM CARR: Can I get that in a minute? Let me see if we can get this clear.

Mr Pezzullo : Then there is a subset of that: the number of those persons who have sought revocation. We would also have that.

Senator KIM CARR: Let's hear it then.

Ms Dunn : Since 11 December 2014, 561 New Zealand nationals have had their visas cancelled, most of those—533—under mandatory cancellation provisions. Sixty-nine per cent, or 367, have requested revocation of the cancellation decision. Seventy-three have had their revocation requests finalised and 36 have had their visas reinstated.

Senator KIM CARR: So 36 had an appeal upheld.

CHAIR: An appeal to the minister.

Ms Dunn : That is right—a revocation request.

Senator KIM CARR: Were there any other provisions for appeal other than the minister?

Ms Dunn : After the revocation process there is a judicial appeal process if the minister has made a decision.

Senator KIM CARR: I see. That is the ministerial process, but you cannot go to the judicial until after the ministerial. Is that correct?

Ms Dunn : That is correct.

Senator KIM CARR: Can you tell me if the person—

CHAIR: Of the 73 that were finalised, 36 have been reinstated. Of the others, how many have sought judicial review?

Ms Dunn : We do not have that. We can take it on notice.

CHAIR: Is it some?

Ms Dunn : It is a small number.

CHAIR: Okay.

Mr Pezzullo : We had best take that on notice without speculating.

Senator KIM CARR: Is it the case that, having an automatic revocation, you leave the country? Can you start the appeal process offshore?

Mr Pezzullo : Yes. In the case of specifically New Zealand citizens, the minister has made clear publicly that, because of the special travel arrangements that attach to New Zealand citizens, they are free to leave having initiated a review of their cancellation. Of course, should the cancellation be revoked or overturned, they are free to come and go pursuant to the trans—

Senator KIM CARR: Come and go?

Mr Pezzullo : If they are successful in having the cancellation revoked, they are reinstated, as it were. All New Zealand citizens have a right to travel under what is known as a 444 visa. There is nothing to prohibit them from leaving—not returning—pending the consideration of that revocation.

Ms De Veau : As a matter of law, the fact that a person was not currently present in Australia would not preclude them from seeking remedy in an Australian court.

Senator KIM CARR: What were the grounds for the 36 who had their applications upheld?

Mr Pezzullo : We are starting to get to a point where—I am not saying that individual cases will be easily discerned, but—

Senator KIM CARR: They must have grounds, though.

Mr Pezzullo : There would be grounds. I think the best course of action would be to take that on notice as part of a subset of your more general questions, which are: how many have been cancelled and how many revocations have been upheld? In answering those questions, we will, as best we can, describe the grounds.

Senator KIM CARR: How many times has the minister invoked section 501 as distinct from the department?

Mr Pezzullo : The mandatory provision is automatic. There is no invocation by anyone. It is a matter of law that, upon conviction and the bringing down of a 12-month sentence—

Senator KIM CARR: The minister does not have to individually—

Mr Pezzullo : It is mandatory. I will just check with Ms De Veau, but it is by operation of law, is it not?

Ms De Veau : Yes. As I indicated earlier, there are a number of provisions in 501 that lead to cancellation, one of which is the automatic cancellation based on the period of imprisonment.

Senator KIM CARR: I am interested in the one that is not the automatic one. I think the officers have already spelt out that there are other grounds.

Mr Pezzullo : Character.

Senator KIM CARR: Yes, that is one where the minister has the capacity—

Ms De Veau : to make a personal decision? That occurs—

Senator KIM CARR: How many times has that happened?

Ms De Veau : We would have to look at that.

Mr Pezzullo : We will take that on notice. We deal with thousands of cases—I am not suggesting we deal with thousands of 501 cases—so it would be better if we took it on notice and put some rigour behind the data we give you.

Senator KIM CARR: I have had cases brought to my office where people have claimed that they have had travel documents provided and then revoked when they left the country. Has that happened?

Mr Pezzullo : I am not sure about the cases you are referring to, but in the publicly notorious case of Mr Vella, his visa was revoked while he was in a foreign jurisdiction and he has never been able to get back.

Senator KIM CARR: The proposition was put to me that you are actually encouraging people to leave the country by telling them that it is okay for them to come back, but when they get out of the country their visa is withdrawn.

Mr Pezzullo : That is confusing two different issues. In the case of New Zealand citizens they, unless we have blocked their return, have essentially free travel. It is not quite free travel, but they have an entitlement to get on a plane and, without holding a visible visa, arrive at a border control point. Unless an officer in the ABF stops them, they have a reasonable expectation that they can come and go under what is known as a 444 visa. Every other person is required to hold a visa in their hand. No-one is the subject of any deceptive practice—I am inferring you are suggesting that; I am not sure you are saying it.

Senator KIM CARR: It has been clearly put to me that the department has provided advice only to revoke it when the person has left the country. You are saying that that does not happen?

Mr Pezzullo : As I said, in the case of the New Zealand citizens, in recognition of our special bonds and travel arrangements, we have given people, through an abundance of caution, the comfort that, if they want to have their cancellation reviewed whilst they are offshore—that is to say, principally, in New Zealand—and their cancellation is reversed, they can come back as if it were status quo ante. Everyone else has to have a visa and no-one is given misleading information, I can assure you.

Senator KIM CARR: What is the daily cost of detaining someone in a facility on Christmas Island?

Mr Pezzullo : If the commissioner does not have that to hand, some of his officers may have that information

Mr Quaedvlieg : I do not have that information and I suspect it is not lying around anywhere on a spreadsheet. It might be something we need to calculate, so, with your indulgence, I will take that on notice.

Senator KIM CARR: That is fine. Thank you very much. That concludes my line of questions in that area, but I have others—

CHAIR: For Australian Border Force?

Senator KIM CARR: I believe so. Just to make sure—

CHAIR: Thanks, Senator Carr. Your time is up now in any case. That was 45 minutes. I thought you were getting to the end of it. I have a couple of questions along the same line. I did not want to interrupt Senator Carr. The 501 applies to everybody, not just to New Zealanders?

Mr Pezzullo : That is right.

CHAIR: Regarding the statistics you have given on New Zealanders, do you have the same statistics for other nationalities as a group?

Mr Pezzullo : If we took it on notice, I am sure that we would have that data, yes.

CHAIR: To give me some sense of perspective, would it be more than 561 or less or about the same?

Mr Pezzullo : The New Zealand group is certainly the largest group simply as a function of absolute numbers present in Australia at any one time, but beyond that I would prefer to take it on notice.

CHAIR: Those 561 have come out of jail or have previously served 12 months or more, and, on the coming into force of this legislation, their visas were immediately cancelled. Is that correct? They then had the two options: one to go into immigration detention for being in Australia without—

Mr Pezzullo : Unlawfully—

CHAIR: Unlawfully—or return to their country of origin. Was 561 the total number of New Zealanders who were affected by that legislation upon coming into—

Mr Pezzullo : I cannot necessarily recall what the evidence was before. I will ask the officer to repeat the evidence.

Ms Dunn : Five hundred and sixty-one New Zealand nationals have been cancelled since the legislation came into effect and 533 of those were under the mandatory cancellation provisions.

CHAIR: How many of the 533 are now in detention?

Mr Outram : All I can say is that, from 1 July to 31 December 2015, the total number of removals following a section 501 cancellation was 206 voluntary removals from detention and nine were involuntary. The total number of those that were New Zealanders was 165 voluntary and seven involuntary.

CHAIR: What does 'involuntary' mean?

Mr Outram : When somebody does not want to go. They do not volunteer to go, so we deport them. Ostensibly, we put them onto an aeroplane and send them back with their travel documentation. If you look at the section 501 cancellation provision, 152 is the total number of New Zealand nationals who volunteered to go back and five were involuntary.

CHAIR: With the claim that 561 are being detained forcibly in Australian detention centres, it is correct to say that every one of them could, should they choose to, leave detention and leave the country tomorrow? Is that right?

Mr Outram : Yes, the New Zealand cohort.

CHAIR: If they said they would go back to New Zealand, do we pay for them or do they pay for themselves?

Mr Outram : The return is paid for by us. We pay the expenses of putting—

CHAIR: By the Australian taxpayer?

Mr Outram : We pay to return people. It is not just New Zealanders. For our return operations, we generally pay the returns costs for sending people back to their country of origin.

CHAIR: Do we pay anything else—taxis to and from the airport or—

Mr Outram : It depends on the operation. In some operations we would use a charter because there would potentially be a lot of people on one aeroplane. At other times it may well be that we would send an escort with them because they are a particularly high risk and we need to escort them to the country of origin. In other cases it may well be simply the provision of an airfare, travel documentation and expenses. It is case-by-case.

CHAIR: Again, do not give away anything secretive, but, for someone who is an at-risk person who really does not want to go, are they restrained with an officer on the flight back to, in this case, New Zealand?

Mr Outram : Possibly. That is a risk based decision. Of course, we have to take that decision in conjunction with the Office of Transport Security and the airline. Ultimately, the pilot is responsible for the passengers and crew on the aeroplane. There are a whole lot of considerations about what we put in place to ensure the safety and security of the aeroplane.

CHAIR: Of those still in detention, because they choose not to go home, how many of the 533—I think you told us 367 have sought revocation by an application to the minister. What about the difference between 533 and 367, which is 167, I think—whatever it is, 166? They have neither sought revocation nor taken legal action?

Ms Dunn : Some of those people have not taken any sort of appeal action and have chosen to go home. That is the number that have been cancelled since the legislation first came into effect. The number in detention is now considerably lower than that number.

CHAIR: Than 561?

Ms Dunn : Yes.

CHAIR: I see. Can we go back—I thought that was where Senator Carr started. How many New Zealanders, particularly, who have a mandatory cancellation are still in detention as at the last date you have got?

Ms Dunn : I do not have the figure for mandatory cancellations, but 174 New Zealanders who are currently in detention have had their visas cancelled for character reasons under section 501.

CHAIR: These figures are getting confusing to me and perhaps to everyone else. Of those who had their visas mandatory or cancelled on character grounds, 367 have applied to the minister for revocation, and those 367 remain in detention until the minister determines their case—is that right?

Ms Dunn : Some of those people choose to go home. I do not have the number with me right now, but a number have chosen to go home and have had successful revocations since they returned to New Zealand.

CHAIR: And so they are able to come back?

Ms Dunn : Yes.

CHAIR: I am wondering which of those who have had cancellations but have not sought revocation are still kept in detention? Do you have a figure for those at the present time?

Mr Quaedvlieg : Senator, I am wondering, if it would help you, if we took it on notice and provided to you in tabular form all of those categories that you just described that sets it out in a quite simplistic sense?

CHAIR: I think that would be useful right across the board and, while you are doing it could you, without involving you in too much work, do that in relation to others besides New Zealanders as a bulk group?

Mr Quaedvlieg : That should not be too difficult. Thank you, we will take that on notice.

CHAIR: The question I am really resolving is that there are still some people on Christmas Island or elsewhere, who have neither applied for revocation or agreed to go home, have apparently made the decision to sit forever in a detention centre.

Mr Quaedvlieg : That would not happen. We would ultimately remove them, because they are unlawful noncitizens but, in terms of where they sit in their linear sequence of status, we will come back to you in tabular form of those categories cut by New Zealand national and other nationalities.

CHAIR: Because with New Zealand we can return them—the New Zealand Prime Minister actually publicly said he would take them back. So there will come a time very shortly where, if you have not applied for revocation, you will be removed, so you will not be on Christmas Island or anywhere else.

Mr Quaedvlieg : Correct.

CHAIR: Getting back to Senator Carr's original questions about Christmas Island—and you may have answered this—were the statistics of the ringleaders whether they were principally from New Zealand?

Mr Quaedvlieg : There was a core group that I mentioned earlier about a dozen or so New Zealanders in the broader core group of around 20. It depends on your definition of ringleader, but a significant core of the instigators were of New Zealand nationality, yes.

CHAIR: People—and when I say 'people' I mean New Zealand shock jocks, I think it were—spoke to me and indicated that there were New Zealanders with 30-year-old marijuana convictions whose visas had been cancelled 30 years after the event. I indicated that I thought that was unlikely. That could not be possible. Unless they were on character grounds, I guess.

Mr Quaedvlieg : Maybe I can illustrate through the North West Point cohort. Having looked at the 50 or so New Zealanders in that cohort at around the time of the riot, I had a look at each individual's case history in terms of criminal convictions. What I can say to you is that there were historical convictions for minor offences but those were normally—in fact, the large majority—in accompaniment with more recent convictions for much more grievous offences against the person into things such as attempted murder, murder, rape et cetera.

CHAIR: So there was an instance given to me—I have forgotten the name—of someone who had a 30-year-old possession of marijuana conviction. What you are saying is that that in itself—unless they were jailed for more than a year, which could have only happened in Queensland 30 years ago, unless they were jailed more than once a year—they would not have their visa cancelled for that reason.

Mr Quaedvlieg : I would not have thought so, without knowing the individual case. But the criminal histories that I have seen attached to individuals subject to the 501 cancellation, whether conviction or character based, have had significant criminal histories with significant egregious offences.

CHAIR: I asked this last time and I got the cute answer saying, 'This is a matter for the New Zealand government.' Can anyone tell me if New Zealand has the same sort of arrangements for Australians who are convicted of major offences in New Zealand? Are they returned? I accept the answer that was given to me that it is a matter for the New Zealand government.

Mr Pezzullo : I think it is a matter of fact. I think last time I checked, perhaps prompted by your question, no, they do not have a mandatory cancellation regime that is linked to the duration of a prison sentence. Again, I stand to be corrected on that. I do recall checking that, and I am pretty sure that they do not have the same regime.

CHAIR: We will now finish with Australian Border Force.

Senator Kim Carr: Who does outcome 2?

CHAIR: Outcome 2 is 'Support a prosperous and inclusive society, and advance Australia's economic interests'.

Mr Pezzullo : That is mainly the department. I should foreshadow that under outcome 1, because we are an integrated department, the department runs with policy, for instance, on border enforcement, but it is the APF that, if you like, enforces our laws—border management, similarly. I am sorry, chair, to do this to you, but we are an integrated and blended department, so it is not easy to say, 'Well, the Border Force has been dealt with,' because subsequently there might be matters where the border force—

CHAIR: Do not apologise to me, secretary. I am just trying to get as many of your very efficient and clever officers out back to their real work rather than sitting around twiddling their thumbs while we are here to do other things.

Senator Kim Carr: No, it is a very important part of their real work, surely.

CHAIR: Once they are finished with them, though, they are better off going back to more productive work.

Senator Kim Carr: To watch us on TV in case something gets mentioned.


CHAIR: Now we move on—whether or not the border force people stay or not, which is a matter for you, secretary, and the commissioner— to cross-portfolio/corporate/general. I understand Senator Hanson-Young has some questions in that category.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Thank you, chair. I wanted some more information about the statistics in relation to the numbers of individuals, including children, in the various places. I wanted to know how many children in detention in Australia today are Nauru transferees.

Mr Pezzullo : I think Deputy Commissioner Briscoe gave that answer earlier, but you might not have been here. I might just ask you to go back to her evidence.

Ms Briscoe : Yes, it is 69.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: That is children in detention?

Ms Briscoe : That is correct.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: How many children are living in the community who are listed as Nauru transferees?

Ms Briscoe : The number of children in community detention is 205, not necessarily all from Nauru.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Can you tell us how many are from Nauru?

Ms Moy : The number of children in community detention who are prone to return to Nauru is 38.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: How many of the children who are from Nauru—that is the 69 in detention, or the 38 in community detention— are here because they have medical concerns, as opposed to being attached to a family member?

Ms Moy : I would have to take that on notice. I do not have with me the exact number of children who have the medical issue versus the number of adults.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Do we have somebody at the table, Mr Pezzullo, who could tell us how many children have been diagnosed as having anxiety, depression or any other mental health problems?

Mr Pezzullo : I would link that to the question we have already taken on notice from your earlier questions. We said that we would on notice come back with a breakdown as to children in our care—those who have been returned to Australia—who have got those conditions. I will just check what we took on notice compared to the words you have just used. But we will just add whatever words you have just used—so, anxiety, depression—

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Or other mental health problems.

Mr Pezzullo : We will give you an omnibus response on notice.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: This question is slightly different to the other one, because I am asking about all children and not just those out of the 267.

Mr Pezzullo : Sorry. Earlier today we were talking about the Nauru children, if I can use that term.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Yes.

Mr Pezzullo : Now you are asking?

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: I am asking how many children overall are in Australian detention or in Nauru—all the children. How many of those?

Mr Pezzullo : Noting that there are no children in detention in Nauru, certainly not under our care. So, children in Nauru, whether they are transferees or refugees, and transferred children who are in Australia temporarily for medical, or they are accompanying medical cases? Did you also ask about the Australian onshore detention network?

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Yes.

Mr Pezzullo : Noting that there are quite a small number of children—

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Once you have taken out the other transferees, yes.

Mr Pezzullo : Okay. We will come back on notice with those three categories. We will use a general lay definition—is it mental health issues that are of principal concern?

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Yes.

Mr Pezzullo : Inclusive of anxiety and depression?

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Yes.

Mr Pezzullo : We will come back on notice.

Ms Briscoe : If I could just correct something. The number I gave you for children in detention was the accompanied children. The total number, accompanied and unaccompanied, is 288 in community detention. Apologies.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Which means, effectively, 83 unaccompanied, I imagine?

Ms Briscoe : 205 accompanied and—

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: 83—

Ms Briscoe : Yes.

Mr Pezzullo : But just to be clear, these are not just children from Nauru.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: No, I understand that some of those children would be worked into the caseload legacy—

Mr Pezzullo : That is correct.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Could I have some figures on how many children have alleged to have been physically abused or assaulted who have been transferred from Nauru?

Mr Pezzullo : Senator O'Sullivan asked I think pretty much an identical question earlier today, so we will wrap that into the same question on notice.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: He asked about sexual assault. I am asking—

Mr Pezzullo : I think he broadened it.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Did he—okay.

Mr Pezzullo : I think he broadened it to include any suggestion of criminality, including physical assaults.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: In the last estimates session, in October, you gave me some figures around the actual self-harm cases. They sounded different to what was read out earlier today. Could we have some clarification around that? In October you told this session that there have been 74 cases of actual self-harm on Nauru in the first six months, so that would have been from January to June, and we are getting these figures in October. That sounds different to what you had reported earlier today. I am wondering why there is a discrepancy.

Mr Pezzullo : The officer in question might return to the table. It sounds broadly similar—whether there was some delayed reporting or whether some reports came to light subsequent to—

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: It was 74 cases of actual self-harm—

Mr Pezzullo : In the first six months?

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: In the first six months.

Mr Pezzullo : I do recall that exchange from last October.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: That was 74 from Nauru and I was given 34 incidents on Manus.

Mr Pezzullo : I do recall that evidence. I will ask Mr Wright to refresh his memory. He would not have been the officer giving the evidence—

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: No, I do not think so.

Mr Pezzullo : Has that been your evidence earlier today?

Mr Wright : I would have to know what the actual period is. If you went from January to October, my quick maths is about 73 instances of actual self-harm in Nauru—

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: It was quoted that it was the first six months of the year, so I imagine that is January—

Mr Pezzullo : What is your count?

Mr Wright : My count for the first six months for actual self-harm in Nauru is 55.

Mr Pezzullo : There is a plausible explanation there—we will come back on notice. It might be that when we do the reviews there are multiple reports of one incident, and you get the phenomenon of duplicated reporting. The numbers that we gave you in October I am absolutely certain would have been given to you in good faith and would have been based on the best information to hand. If those number have now, it appears, come down by some 20 reports, it might be the case, and will take this on notice, that upon investigation by the relevant authorities, or by quality checking by our own staff, it is possible that three or four or five reports might have come in on the same incident, and they all get amalgamated into one report, I suppose.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Could I ask for an update. I was also told in October that there were 10 cases of sexual assault against refugees living in the community in Nauru, and an additional nine from women inside the camp.

Mr Pezzullo : I recall us taking that on notice and I think coming back to you after consulting with authorities in Nauru. Are you asking for an update?

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Yes, I am asking for an update to those figures.

Mr Pezzullo : I will see if Ms Moy has further and better particulars.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: That was obviously for what we knew up to October.

Mr Pezzullo : Yes.

Senator O'SULLIVAN: Could the senator be invited to clarify whether these are allegations of sexual assault, rather than making a statement that 10 people were sexually assaulted. This is the whole focus of my point on this. We are out in the open and people are listening. They will take from that that there were 10 events of sexual assault, as opposed to complaints.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: I am just reading what I was given last time.

Mr Pezzullo : In fairness to the senator, I think last time we did agree that we would use the phraseology of 'allegations'. So, to keep an apples and apples comparison, I will see if Ms Moy has an update—

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Cases that have been reported?

Mr Pezzullo : That is right. Cases that have been reported, which by definition means that there is an allegation put. I will see of Ms Moy has an apples and apples update.

CHAIR: That is useful. As an addition to that, could you add how many of those are actually proven?

Mr Pezzullo : Yes. I think in fact to the senators earlier request we agreed to consult with colleagues to see how many prosecutions have been opened, how many have been brought before trial and how many convictions have been—

Senator O'SULLIVAN: And indeed how many are still under actual investigation.

Mr Pezzullo : Yes, we took that on notice earlier. Is there an update on the specific question of the allegations?

Ms Moy : There is. In terms of allegations of assault within the Nauru RPC since last estimates, there were zero.

Mr Pezzullo : Zero further reports?

Ms Moy : Zero further reports—correct. In terms of within the community there were four allegations of sexual assault harassment against an adult and one sexual harassment assault of a minor, in terms of allegations. So that is a total of five since last estimates.

Senator O'SULLIVAN: There are two separate complainants, one who complained that on four occasions they were the subject of sexual harassment?

Ms Moy : No, there were four individual occasions—so there were four individuals—of adults sexual harassment or assault alleged.

Senator O'SULLIVAN: Can you separate that?

Ms Moy : I can say that there is one male and three females.

Senator O'SULLIVAN: No, but I mean an allegation of assault versus harassment.

Ms Moy : I do not mean to be obtuse, but the definition of assault and harassment is put together because the complaints are generally, or can be, either of the nature of sexual assault or inappropriate touching, inappropriate contact or inappropriate phone calls—so they are put together. On notice I can separate them out for you.

Senator O'SULLIVAN: So you are suggesting that there is a physical encounter in each of those four, as opposed to sexual harassment, which could occur over the width of this room, for example?

Ms Moy : That is correct. I can get the rate on notice for you.

Senator O'SULLIVAN: Thank you.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Going back to a question that was asked by Senator Carr earlier, there was a conversation around the escape from the Christmas Island detention centre. Was there any reporting of a hole in the fence that the Border Force staff are aware of?

Mr Quaedvlieg : No, none.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: No-one inside your department has reported that to anyone at any level?

Mr Quaedvlieg : Not only was there no report, but there was no hole.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: There were reports in relation to New Zealand offering to take 150 of the asylum seekers that are held offshore. That was part of an arrangement under the previous government, the Gillard government. The New Zealand minister has been quoted as saying that it is up to Australia to take up that offer. Mr Pezzullo, where is that up to, and is it true that Australia has rejected New Zealand's—

Mr Pezzullo : I would not characterise it like that. New Zealand Immigration Minister Woodhouse, as I recall, indicated in recent days that Australia had to that point declined to take up the offer. That is an accurate description of our discussions with New Zealand in the past on this matter.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: That Australia declined to take up—

Mr Pezzullo : Declined at the time, given that at that time the need to ensure that Operation Sovereign Borders was successfully put in place—all of its features: offshore processing, turn-backs and the like—the concern expressed to the government of New Zealand at the time was that it might create a pull factor, so Minister Woodhouse, the relevant New Zealand minister, has reflected publicly that as a result of our concerns, and I do not take issue with his description of the historical exchanges, about so-called pull factors being created at that time we thought it best not to take up the offer, which was very positively received. It is still the case that New Zealand's positive and proactive efforts to assist us in working through what is a difficult and vexed issue were appreciated then and continue to be appreciated.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Are they still in negotiations with you in terms of third-country resettlement, or is it the decision that it is too much of a pull factor, as you have described? I am trying to work out whether this is history or whether this is current thinking.

Mr Pezzullo : I am trying to work out ways to answer your question both accurately but in a way that does not prejudice any discussions that may or may not in future emerge. When you asked if we are still in negotiations, we do not deal with our New Zealand cousins like that and they do not deal with us like that. We have ongoing conversations all the time about all manner of things—security, border issues and people smuggling—and I would not want to characterise that in the sense that we are in negotiations and then kind of broke off the negotiations. It would mischaracterise the way in which we deal with these matters. It is much more like a discussion within a family.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Are they considered still to be an option for third-country resettlement?

Mr Pezzullo : I think the New Zealand minister has made clear that some of the historical places have been cross-allocated to another program. I think he has made reference to the fact that these are now allocated to the intake of Syrian displaced persons, and I think he has also said Iraqi displaced persons. Beyond that it would really be for the New Zealand government to describe the status of those historical places. I am just repeating what the New Zealand minister has said publicly.

CHAIR: Senator Hanson-Young, your time has expired and we are taking a break. Do you have just a couple more questions or are there more?

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: There is a fair bit more.

CHAIR: We will take a break and come back to Senator O'Sullivan.

CHAIR: We are continuing with the additional estimates hearing for the portfolio of Immigration and Border Protection. We are dealing with cross-portfolio/corporate. I said I would go to Senator O'Sullivan, then Senator Carr and then see where we go from there.

Senator O'SULLIVAN: With indulgence, Chair, I think my questions are just slightly off subject, but they are a continuation of the line that Senator Hanson-Young—

CHAIR: That was what she was doing.

Senator O'SULLIVAN: I just want to go back, if I might, briefly to the issue of these complaints and statistics, because I really think there is a case to be built that we need to look more thoroughly at some of these issues. Has there been any evidence that some of the behaviour—we will refer to it as 'behaviour' rather than suggest it is a criminal offence—might be more acceptable within the cultures of some of the people who find themselves in detention? As we bring different cultures together, they have different attitudes to different things. Is there any evidence that some of this is comfortable within another culture that might be uncomfortable in our culture or the standards that we expect?

Mr Pezzullo : I do not think that there is any evidence to hand, recalling that if these incidents occur on Nauru we are always a supporting player; we are not a lead player in the investigations. So if you are asking about Nauru, I just put that qualification. If you are asking about the Australian immigration detention network, then we are obviously the lead authority. I do not know, Ms Moy, if there is a pattern whereby, through the investigative process, statements are made: 'It's permissible in our culture to touch people in a particular way.' I dare say that I do not think that any culture permits or condones vicious and violent sexual assaults or rape, particularly penetrative rape.

Senator O'SULLIVAN: We have countries where it is common to marry a girl off at nine years of age to an uncle, so I mean—

Mr Pezzullo : Sure. Understood. I might just ask Ms Moy: is there any analysis that has been done of some of the cultural factors that might explain, or at least contextualise, some of the lower threshold behaviour? I cannot imagine that really vicious, violent behaviour is condoned by any culture, but, anyway—

Ms Moy : To my knowledge there has not been analysis done in terms of a cultural breakdown of reports of incidents. There has come to our attention at times, when we are in a support role to Nauru, that being aware of cultural differences is quite important—in terms of what is generally permissible in the Nauruan culture may be different in the Australian culture or in another culture of a person on Nauru. There has not been analysis as such as to which incidents might fall into a category of a cultural issue, but there has been a lot of work done in Nauru by the Nauruan government in terms of cultural training for the Nauruan children within the schools about what is acceptable in terms of an integrated society in Nauru. They have done a lot of work in the Department of Education—

Senator O'SULLIVAN: I am probably more interested in the refugee types in the centre itself. Whilst I understand this is a detention centre that is administered by Nauru, we do have a special interest in what is happening in this place. We are getting slapped around down here over events up there, so it is a special interest. My question is more specific: have there been people who have come from another country and are in Nauru, where their culture might explain a physical or verbal interaction between two people that we might find completely inconsistent with our laws, or how our society operates, but is culturally accepted within their world?

Mr Pezzullo : If we do not have evidence to hand, we should say 'no'.

Ms Moy : The secretary is correct. There is no analysis to that degree of incidents that have occurred between individuals.

Senator O'SULLIVAN: I will put the question this way: would you consider having that knowledge as being a value-add to our obligations to administer these things to the extent that we are?

Mr Pezzullo : It adds value in this respect: as Ms Moy has said that, it has taken a period of time, including through responding to things like the Moss inquiry that we have talked about in this committee before, and particularly as the Nauruan government has moved to an open centre model, which, essentially, is not for permanent purposes, because Nauru is not party to an agreement that sees permanent settlement occurring. But, for all intents and purposes, as transferees go through the process and become refugees, they will be there, depending on the availability of durable solutions involving third countries, for up to 10 years. That is the agreement. Essentially you are, if you like, forming an integrated society in schools, churches, or other places of worship, and hospitals, where you have the Nauruan Indigenous population—for want of a better phrase—or the local population; you have an increasingly integrated population, because people move about freely; they form associations; they form friendships; they join clubs. Some of the transferees and refugees, if I am not mistaken, Ms Moy, have set up businesses?

Ms Moy : That is correct.

Mr Pezzullo : So you have, essentially, in effect, a migration program emerging out of what was originally offshore regional processing. It is not a permanent program—I just want to stress that—because the agreement that we have with the government of Nauru is to then support Nauru in finding durable off-island solutions down the track. It is a relatively small place, and you cannot just simply significantly expand the population without consequences. So, as Ms Moy said: is there value-add in being attentive to cultural differences? Yes, from the point of view of things like gender violence, social inclusion and the like. I think earlier today Ms Moy gave some evidence about some cultural awareness training for service providers, teachers—I think you made reference to the police, if I am not mistaken?

Ms Moy : Yes, that is correct.

Mr Pezzullo : The senator has asked a very specific question about assault, but could you just repeat, very generally, what we are doing in the area of supporting Nauru with cultural awareness.

Ms Moy : The Nauru government has, very early, seen this as an issue themselves. They run a cultural awareness program not only in the RPC but also within the community. That is with all areas—their own administration and, as the secretary said, the police, schools, hospital et cetera. The other issue is that there are a number of cultural liaison officers. We have cultural advisers within the RPC who support the government of Nauru to manage the RPC, and they are of the same culture as the people who are transferees and refugees within Nauru, so that they fully understand the culture. That also helps with the integration, not only within the RPC itself but within the general community. There is also a cultural liaison program, or CLOs as well call them, with the government of Nauru that involves not only the local Nauruans but refugees who are employed as CLOs to assist people within the community with specific issues. It might be as easy as helping someone who gets lost when they are out on open centre and does not know where to go or how to get somewhere; dealing with other cultures; or dealing with integration with Nauru law, practices, protocols and those sorts of things within the culture.

Senator KIM CARR: Mr Pezzullo, how many SES staff have left the department in each of the following years: 2012-13, 2013-14, 2014-15, and 2015-16 as year-to-date?

Mr Pezzullo : If Dr Charker has this information to hand she will provide it. Of course, in the period since 1 July 2015—that is to say, the current financial year—you are talking about an SES group that is the amalgam of the previous immigration department and the former customs service: a roughly 150-strong SES. In those prior years going back to 2012-13 I am taking your question as pertaining to the former immigration department.

Senator KIM CARR: Yes.

Dr Charker : What I do not have here are the figures that go back prior to 1 July 2015. Noting the secretary's comments, they do relate to two separate organisations, or, if you are mainly interested in immigration, just the one. I certainly do have some figures here for you on SES movements from 1 July 2014 to 30 June 2015—the previous financial year—and also half of the current year, that is 1 July 2015 to 31 December 2015. I can provide those to you if that would help?

Senator KIM CARR: That would be helpful, and the rest can be taken on notice.

Mr Pezzullo : With a note saying 'the former department'.

Dr Charker : Yes. In relation to the 2014-15 figures, as the secretary has just reminded me, obviously the amalgamation of the two organisations formally occurred at 1 July 2015, and so whilst you do see a lot of SES movements in the figures for 2014-15, a number of those relate to machinery-of-government changes which, of course, relate predominantly to the merger itself. So some of those figures are going to be inflating some of the movements, but to give you a sense: the total number of SES coming in—commencing either as a brand-new commencement; being promoted and therefore commencing at a new level; or coming in due to a machinery-of-government change—was 37. The total number of SES going out in 2014-15, either as a transfer to another APS agency; because of age retirement reasons; or SES section 37 retirement reasons—was 25. I do not have breakdowns here of those numbers. I may have some information about 'by agency', but I will just finish the first part of your question first, which also goes to the current financial year. The SES movements pertaining to the current financial year—which are since integration so we are now at least dealing with one organisation—are that we have seen 59 SES movements in. In fact, looking quickly at my notes, it looks as if 21 of those are attributable to integration—so they have come about due to a machinery-of-government change—and we have seen 21 going out. Again, that is due to a range of reasons including transfer, retirement, resignation et cetera.

Senator KIM CARR: I take it you can provide the other information on notice.

Dr Charker : Certainly in prior years that would have required being provided on notice.

Senator KIM CARR: Turning to the policy division, how many of the staff who currently work in the policy division or its equivalent have been there from 30 June 2015?

Dr Charker : I do not have that information; I am sorry.

Mr Pezzullo : We just need to clarify terms, too. There is a policy group headed up by Deputy Secretary Noble, who is not available at the moment. She heads a group that consists of a number of policy divisions—an Immigration and Citizenship Policy Division; an international policy division. To assist me in understanding the point of your question, are you interested in the entire group, or a particular division within the group?

Senator KIM CARR: The whole group. The whole group would be helpful.

Mr Pezzullo : Dr Charker, working with her colleague, Ms Noble, will take it on notice at the group level.

Senator KIM CARR: I am interested to know what the corporate history is in terms of the policy advice.

Mr Pezzullo : It is an excellent corporate history. A number of excellent longstanding immigration officers have been promoted—people who are very high calibre. They have been joined in a blended construct by officers who have joined us from other departments including, from memory, Foreign Affairs, Defence and perhaps others as well.

Senator KIM CARR: So you can give me a breakdown of staff within that?

Mr Pezzullo : Sure.

Senator KIM CARR: I do not want to know the names, but I would like to know what the length of service has been.

Mr Pezzullo : As public servants, or as officers of the—

Senator KIM CARR: No, in immigration policy.

Mr Pezzullo : We can do immigration policy from a number of points of view. Officers of the former department, I think, is what you are asking.

Senator KIM CARR: Mmm.

Mr Pezzullo : There should be no suggestion in anyone's mind about the sole repository of wisdom about how to deal with these intractable, complex and, in some cases, longstanding problems that have suffered a want of a solution—no doubt despite the best efforts of people who have had longstanding careers in this field. Everything can be dealt with with a fresh perspective as well. If you are asking me about people with expertise in immigration policy who are also members of the department, we will give you a very concise answer.

Senator KIM CARR: No, I am interested in the policy divisions, not the general department. I do not want to know the work history of every officer in the blended department. I am interested to know whether or not there has been a clean-out of the policy advisory roles within the new structure.

Mr Pezzullo : We will take that on notice. I think the only way to really give that answer by way of proxy is to advise who of the current group of leaders has been in the department for particular periods of time—they might not have been in the department at the levels that they currently serve; that is to say they have been promoted—and in other cases who has joined the department perhaps since the merger on 1 July 2015. I think that is the only way to address the question. I cannot think of any other way to address your concerns about a so-called clean-out.

Senator KIM CARR: All right. Let's see how you go with the answer and we will come back to it.

Mr Pezzullo : We will give it a go.

Senator KIM CARR: What I am trying to establish is whether or not there has been a purge.

Mr Pezzullo : Senator, you asked me this last time.

Senator KIM CARR: And I will continue to ask it until I get a straight answer.

Mr Pezzullo : I have given you a straight answer, and I will just give you another—

Senator KIM CARR: You have told me that it is not the repository of all knowledge, if I recall.

Mr Pezzullo : No. Like in any policy area, my secretary brothers and sisters are always looking for a combination of long-serving officers who have served for a long time in their department. But they are also looking for people who bring a fresh perspective either from other government agencies or sometimes from the private sector. Variety is a very good thing.

Senator KIM CARR: Yes.

Mr Pezzullo : A very good thing indeed.

Senator KIM CARR: I am interested in two things: the question about the militarisation of this department, and—

Mr Pezzullo : I do not understand what that term means.

Senator KIM CARR: We have had this ongoing discussion, and we will continue to have it. I am interested to know to what extent the new structure has provided an opportunity for there to be a removal of officers from the department.

Mr Pezzullo : No-one has been removed in the sense that I think you are—

Senator KIM CARR: No-one has been sacked, but there has been extraordinary turnover.

Mr Pezzullo : People have made their choices given the options that I presented to them, but also the nature of the work that was clearly evolving. As we discussed before—

Senator KIM CARR: Sorry, I am wrong about that. The secretary was sacked with the change of government. I would like to know how many officers have been shown the door.

Mr Pezzullo : As I have said to you consistently since my appointment as secretary there has been no purge as such. There has been a very open, transparent discussion about the future direction of the department. I have said to your previously, and for the benefit of other senators I will quickly repeat it: some officers chose to leave, for several reasons, and they have had very frank discussions with me. The bringing in of the Customs function, for instance: 'I joined a department that was not about goods.' That is fine. The department now is about goods, and the government has got a perfect democratic mandate to adjust the machinery of government as it sees fit. In some cases, I found cause to counsel people, to say, 'Do you really want to be so emotionally invested in that position that you cannot see your way clear to continue to work here?' 'Yes. I think it's time to hang up the spurs.' That is fine.

In other cases there was another machinery of government change that we have discussed before—the transfer of settlement functions and the multicultural function to another portfolio. In fact, the minister at the table, Senator Fierravanti-Wells, the Assistant Minister for Multicultural Affairs, is a minister of that portfolio as well as ours. For some officers—I do not limit this comment solely to SES officers—if you had been in the department for 25 or 30 years doing that line of work you can understand in any empathetic way that that would be an emotionally confronting and difficult experience. In some cases those officers either went to the social services portfolio, where they are flourishing and no doubt doing very good work. Some of them chose to change their career direction and stay with us and some of them chose to take the opportunity to do something different with their lives. They are two examples. I could give you more and still try to be general so that I do not particularise individuals.

None of those discussions fit by any stretch of the imagination the word 'purge'. Purge is what Stalin did in the thirties. You and I have had cause in the past to discuss our common historical interest in that period of Soviet history. There has been no purge. He knew how to do a purge, and that is not what we are doing.

Senator KIM CARR: No. You are much more sophisticated, aren't you.

Mr Pezzullo : I do not know how many time to answer the question: no, we are not sophisticated Stalinists.

Senator KIM CARR: Let us have a look at what your answer is and we will pursue this matter. I am surprised at how many people have left the department.

Mr Pezzullo : I have to say, having heard the numbers for the first time myself from the chief operating officer, the net flow has been positive in. When you say that you are surprised at the number of people who have left, as Dr Charker has indicated, that has to be offset against the number of people who have come in. Your new line of concern, which is understandable, is: 'What's happened to your corporate knowledge?' That may or may not be apparent on the numbers that we give you in our response, and no doubt we will continue this conversation the next time you ask me.

Senator KIM CARR: I would like to turn to outcome 2.

CHAIR: Is everyone finished with cross-portfolio and corporate general questions?

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: I have questions for outcome 1.

CHAIR: The next one on the program is Operation Sovereign Borders.

Senator KIM CARR: I have very a short series of question for the general.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: I still have lots of questions about the detention network and the caseload legacy group. They are all in outcome 1.

Mr Pezzullo : Chair, if it is of any assistance, the IMA onshore management matter—sorry to use acronyms—can be dealt with under program 1.4 and offshore management and regional cooperation, again, IMA, is program 1.5.

CHAIR: Yes, that would. With that in mind, we will go on to Operation Sovereign Borders. I welcome Major General Bottrell to the table. Major General, did you want to make an opening statement?

Major Gen. Bottrell : I do have a short opening statement to deliver.

CHAIR: Okay. That has been the custom in this committee, so off you go.

Major Gen. Bottrell : I am commander of the joint agency task force for Operation Sovereign Borders. Chair, members of the committee, thank you for the opportunity to provide you with an update on activities under Operation Sovereign Borders policy since the supplementary budget estimates hearing in October last year. Operation Sovereign Borders has now been in place for more than two years, and it is working as intended. We have seen the successful return of 23 boats and more than 680 people to their country of departure. Most importantly, there have been no known deaths at sea during this period.

We now stand at more than 560 days since the last people-smuggling boat successfully arrived in the Australian migration zone, with the individuals on that last venture being transferred to the Nauru Regional Processing Centre. We have also increasingly strengthened our engagement with regional partners, either bilaterally or through the multilateral Bali Process. However, notwithstanding the success of Operation Sovereign Borders to date, we need to remain vigilant.

Despite the High Court finding that the Australian government's arrangements for regional processing on Nauru are legally and constitutionally valid, we know that people smugglers are still trying to use opportunities such as the recent court case to convince vulnerable men, women and children that Australia's policy has changed. This is clearly not the case. There has been no change to the government's position. The maintenance of a consistently robust approach to stopping illegal maritime ventures has seen the people smugglers' business model all but broken. However, they continue to try to circumvent our border control measures. We continue to reach out to the people who are thinking about paying people smugglers to enter Australia illegally to ensure they have a clear understanding of the dangers involved, as well as the nature of Australia's tough policies. These communications initiatives are making it harder for people smugglers to convince those vulnerable people to part with their money and to set out on unsafe journeys. Our communication efforts remain an enduring line of work because any void in communication will be filled by the misinformation and lies of people smugglers.

The Operation Sovereign Borders system of on-water deterrence remains strong and has recently been reinforced with the addition of the Ocean Protector—the sister ship of the Ocean Shield—which provides significant additional capability to enable the Australian Border Force to respond to immediate and enduring threats to our maritime security and sovereignty. As the commissioner indicated in his opening statement, the Australian Border Force now operates the largest and most capable maritime surveillance and response fleet Australian civilian operators have ever fielded.

Finally, I wish to acknowledge, again, the professionalism of the men and women of the Australian Border Force and the Australian Defence Force who work in the challenging and often dangerous on-water environment. I have met many of these men and women, and I am consistently impressed with their attitude, which typically enables them to balance the implementation of a tough policy without compromising safety. While many of their efforts are not in the public eye, they have much to be proud of for the manner in which they undertake their duties.

Chair and members of the committee, that concludes my statement. Thank you for your indulgence.

Senator KIM CARR: How many turn-backs have there been since the last estimates hearing?

Major Gen. Bottrell : There have been two since the last Senate estimates.

Senator KIM CARR: When did they occur?

Major Gen. Bottrell : They were in November.

Senator KIM CARR: Where were they intercepted? Are you able to tell us that?

Major Gen. Bottrell : We have not disclosed the specific details, suffice to say that they were immediately to the north of Australia and on the typical approaches that we see people-smuggling ventures.

Senator KIM CARR: There were media reports of a vessel close to Christmas Island, were there not?

Major Gen. Bottrell : Yes, there was.

Senator KIM CARR: Is that the one you are referring to?

Major Gen. Bottrell : One of those, yes.

Senator KIM CARR: And that is the date that was publicly available?

Major Gen. Bottrell : That is correct.

Senator KIM CARR: How many people were on board the vessels?

Major Gen. Bottrell : I will get you the detail. Just bear with me. On the one that you are referring to, there were 17 people.

Senator KIM CARR: And how many were on the other?

Major Gen. Bottrell : Three. Just so you are aware, they are reported typically in the monthly statement, which is released around the first week of the following month.

Senator KIM CARR: So they were reported in December?

Major Gen. Bottrell : Yes, they were released in the December report on Operation Sovereign Borders.

Senator KIM CARR: And, given that there have been no others, there has been nothing to report.

Major Gen. Bottrell : That is correct.

Senator KIM CARR: Yes. Can you tell me where these two vessels originated?

Major Gen. Bottrell : Both of these vessels departed from Indonesia.

Senator KIM CARR: Thank you very much.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Chair—

CHAIR: This is on Operation Sovereign Borders?

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Yes.

CHAIR: Okay.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Major General Bottrell, you said there have been two turn-backs to Indonesia since the last estimates. Could you tell us about the reported boat that left India with six Sri Lankans reportedly on board but was stopped before it reached anywhere near our OSB responsibilities?

Major Gen. Bottrell : Are you referring to a media report?

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Yes.

Major Gen. Bottrell : I think I am only across the same level of detail as you are—that there were reports of a venture that was disrupted by the Indian authorities and stopped from getting away.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Okay. So you have not been given any information by the Indian government at all about that vessel or you have not inquired into whether that is actually true?

Major Gen. Bottrell : No. We have been provided with no detail to corroborate that public information.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: It was the Indian press, of course, that reported it.

Major Gen. Bottrell : Yes.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Is that something that you would try and find out whether it is true, whether that is happening, whether this is a new trend?

Major Gen. Bottrell : As is customary, the engagement that we have with other nations is not typically disclosed during these discussions. Suffice to say that we are in regular conversation with regional partners, and others more broadly, in order to try and undermine the people-smuggling trade.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: But, in those conversations, you have not been given any information about that particular vessel?

Major Gen. Bottrell : The one you are referring to—no, I am not aware of any official information that we have received.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Are you aware of any other ventures like that in recent months?

Major Gen. Bottrell : We keep a very close eye on what is released in the media. There are often stories and reports of countries that are starting to get a tighter grip on people-smuggling ventures. You might recall as well, I think it was in September or October last year, that there were some reports out of Indonesia that they had also disrupted at least one venture and potentially others as well.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: There was discussion last year around the change in vessels that Australia uses to facilitate the turn-back of individuals when intercepted, from the orange lifeboats to the wooden vessels. Has there been any work done by your department on whether they are the safest option available?

Major Gen. Bottrell : As I have referred to on numerous occasions, safety clearly is one of our highest priorities, and we continue in all of our procurement activities to make sure that safety is the primary driver for the solution that is fielded. That is about all I can really say in terms of the nature of the vessels provided, but you should be confident that safety is a key driver for it.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Are we only using wooden vessels now or are we still using orange vessels as well?

Major Gen. Bottrell : The only thing I can really say there is that we have a wide range of options that are available to us and those options continue to extend. Unfortunately I cannot talk you through the nature of the vessels or the options that we have to be able to assist with those returns.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Why can you not give us that information? I do not understand why it would be an issue of national security what type of vessel we have engaged and used.

Major Gen. Bottrell : If people smugglers become aware of the nature of a particular type of vessel that we might use to support a return, they may set out with ideas, plans or the means to be able to undermine that. So to be able to go into an activity and to have options available, depending on the circumstances at the time, will depend on what we might utilise. There are a number of considerations there of course. Unfortunately I cannot talk to you through those in this environment.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: So you cannot tell us whether Operation Sovereign Borders has discontinued the use of the orange lifeboats?

Major Gen. Bottrell : As I said before, I think the point to take away is the options continue to expand rather than shrink.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Most people have seen pictures of the orange lifeboats. They have been documented in Indonesia as well as in Australia. I find it difficult to say that confirming whether or not they are still part of the fleet of vessels we use is in any way undermining your operations.

Major Gen. Bottrell : If I was a people smuggler and I knew what sort of vessel someone might put me into to return me then I would depart that location with a view to as to how I was going to undermine it. So I have no intention of providing that detail here where the people smugglers will pick that information up from.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Has there been any discussion with the New Zealand government around vessels that have either been en route or made any successful journeys to New Zealand?

Major Gen. Bottrell : I refer to my comment earlier that we are always talking to countries in the region about a range of issues. I cannot disclose the detail of those conversations.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: How many vessels are you aware of in the last 12 months that have been en route to New Zealand rather than Australia?

Major Gen. Bottrell : Forgive me if I am going over old ground that you may already be aware of but the primary issue that people smugglers are struggling with at the moment is trying to convince these vulnerable people to actually get onto a boat so they will use any and all means to do that. We know they are peddling lies because the people smugglers, through our communications, are well aware of what the arrangements are. They know that they are not going to make it to Australia. What we know is that people smugglers are using New Zealand as a ruse to try and get people onto boats. In many cases they have no intention of trying to get to New Zealand. If they do get away, they typically find that the distance and the conditions are such or they have not provisioned it with sufficient fuel or food to actually make it in to New Zealand in the first place. So they always had an intention for it to head to Australia but they did not tell the passengers on board because they wanted to just get them onto the boat in the first place. We know that is a tactic that they have employed. New Zealand has appeared regularly in reporting between people smugglers trying to get people onto boats. Whether they have the means to be able to get them there or not, in a lot of cases, is unlikely.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: How many people seeking asylum do you believe there are currently in Indonesia waiting for another option, waiting to move on from Indonesia?

Major Gen. Bottrell : I do not know what their intentions are but I am aware of the UNHCR figures. Someone may correct me but I think the figure is sitting at around just over 14,000 who are registered with the UNHCR.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: I imagine if you are doing all your intelligence and are able to map the tactics we heard about before from the secretary—the marketing, effectively—you must have a sense of where that is being done in Indonesia to try and capture the interest of some of those people?

Major Gen. Bottrell : Sorry, I am not quite following your line of questioning.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: You are quoting UNHCR figures. I am asking if your team, if your Operation Sovereign Borders unit, is aware of the intelligence of what is going on in terms of boat trips planned or people smuggling marketing, which was what was put to us earlier by the secretary. Who are they marketing to? Where are these people?

Mr Pezzullo : If I might just begin so that I can provide an accurate context around my answer. We never discuss intelligence matters. My earlier answer did not have any bearing on intelligence matters whatsoever. In terms of what we can follow through what we call 'open source' in our business—social media and the like—we know the attitude taken by smugglers because they go onto blogs, they go onto websites and are quite open about it.

To the point of the specific question of how do they then reach the relevant communities, General Bottrell can add to this answer but essentially, as we have discussed on numerous occasions in this committee, these communities tend to congregate. They tend to reside in place whilst they are awaiting an opportunity to come to Australia, particularly in Java but also elsewhere throughout Indonesia. These matters are also the subject of discussion and dialogue between ourselves and our friends and colleagues in the Indonesian apparatus, which, again, I will state we undertake without going into details. So we, through all of those discussions, have a reasonable idea of the localities where people congregate. There is mutual support if you are from the Sudanese community or the Somali community or the Iraqi community. There is a natural human drive to congregate.

They are also supported in many instances by the International Organisation for Migration. It has got a degree of insight into where they are, their mood, their current state of thinking and also the closeness with which they observe proceedings in Australia. In this internet age, it is quite remarkable the degree of interest but also the close attention that is paid to all sorts of things be it High Court decisions, Senate proceedings and the like. The general is then able to—without going into intelligence matters because we would never canvas those in these proceedings—craft what is termed a strategic communications campaign that deals with those efforts at marketing, which I did use. If you are interested, he could break that down further in terms of how he goes about targeting those communications.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: I would actually be interested to know what we are doing to help deal with the 14,000 people in Indonesia. If we do not want them engaging people smugglers, if we do not want them to be jumping on boats then what are we doing to do help those people have some type of durable solution?

Mr Pezzullo : They are not jumping on boats because—to use another phrase—the bottom has completely fallen out of the market, and it is our intention to keep it that way. Potential travellers are completely deterred from parting with their money. In terms of assisting Indonesia, as the foreign minister and others have said recently, we are engaged with Indonesia through the Bali process to find durable solutions for persons who have moved within the Asia Pacific region.

A more global compact or a more global set of arrangements though need to be put in place to deal with those who have moved from outside the region into the region with a view to coming to Australia. We talked earlier in today's proceedings about Syrians, Iraqis et cetera. Our position remains. As our program to deal with globally displaced persons is rolled out, you can come to Australia through those means. You cannot come to Australia from Indonesia.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Even if you have been assessed by the UNHCR and referred by them?

Mr Pezzullo : We will engage with the UNHCR in the terms that Mr Bardos described earlier related to people who have been in camps, principally in Jordan—

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Let me go back because I am conscious that other people are going to want to take time asking their questions as well. There had previously been a decision announced by the former Prime Minister Tony Abbott to not take UNHCR registered and referred refugees from Indonesia. Is that still the case? Is that still government policy?

Mr Pezzullo : The policy position and preference for operational reasons is to take particularly Syrian and Iraqi refugees from the Middle East.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Is there still effectively a ban, which was how it was described, on taking UNHCR registered refugees who are residing in Indonesia?

Mr Pezzullo : Our preference is to take such persons from the Middle East and other places. Now that we have defeated the boats, the next pull factor becomes getting to Indonesia because there is another way to, if you like, queue yourself into Australia so the policy position remains one of assisting Indonesia. We work with Indonesian authorities. We work with the IOM to make sure that people in Indonesia are as comfortable as circumstances can be and that they are given durable options to apply for settlement places in the appropriate manner. But our focus at the moment is really to focus on refugees from the Middle East and elsewhere but not those who have travelled to Indonesia for the conscious purpose of getting on a boat to come to Australia, which is a path that is now blocked.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: We have not resettled anybody since that statement was made?

Mr Pezzullo : I will need to take it on notice. There is a modest program. I just need to check the facts on notice. If there are any numbers at all, they would be minuscule.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: If someone could check the figures over the dinner break, I would be really interested to know.

Mr Pezzullo : Our policy preference though is not to draw from the pool that is in Indonesia simply because it then becomes the new pathway to be pulled into Australia.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: To be taken on notice perhaps over the dinner break, if I could have the figures on how many people have been resettled through a referral from UNHCR from both Malaysia and Indonesia in the last 12 months, I would appreciate that.

Mr Pezzullo : We will take that on notice. If we can answer it after dinner, we certainly well.

CHAIR: I think one of your officers might be heading towards a table with that information now.

Mr Pezzullo : We will see if they intend to continue on that path.

CHAIR: If they have got the information, we might as well get it now.

Mr Kukoc : The 2015-16 offshore program includes refugees in Indonesia who registered with the UN High Commission for Refugees prior to 1 July 2014.

Mr Pezzullo : You need to have registered by a particular date; is that correct?

Mr Kukoc : Yes, before 1 July 2014 and they will be included in the 2015-16 program.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: How many are there?

Mr Pezzullo : If the data is not readily available, we can take it on notice.

Mr Kukoc : We can take the data notice given that it is a planning number. We can only advise on the visa grants until the end of December 2015. I need to get that data for you so I will take that question on notice, if you do not mind.

Senator O'SULLIVAN: Major General Bottrell, how long have you been in your current post here?

Major Gen. Bottrell : I commenced in the end of March last year after a couple of weeks handover with Lieutenant General Campbell.

Senator O'SULLIVAN: So it is coming up to your you first birthday there?

Major Gen. Bottrell : That is correct.

Senator O'SULLIVAN: Can I ask you how many souls have been lost on the high seas, drowning in their attempt to get to Australia under your watch?

Major Gen. Bottrell : None under my watch.

Senator O'SULLIVAN: Zero? No mothers or fathers or brothers or sisters or young children drowned at high seas under your watch?

Major Gen. Bottrell : None.

Senator O'SULLIVAN: Congratulations. With respect to the campaign that we operate to spread the policy position of this country with respect to our borders—and if you tell me you do not want to answer this question, you will cleverly get around it; I am not trying to get into the intricate grain of it all—how big is that campaign? I am going to call it a 'propaganda' campaign but it is not; that is just a useful word. But how big is that propaganda campaign? For example, do we have people based if you can tell me overseas who devote their entire day and their week and month and year into making sure this message gets out and about?

Major Gen. Bottrell : Certainly. If I can just make a comment in regard to your use of the term 'propaganda', in fact the key point to note here is that all of our communications are factual. The whole focus of the strategic communications campaign is about informing the people who would otherwise make a decision to get onto a boat. We go to some lengths to make sure that what we deliver is factual.

I will just talk you briefly through the detail. There are essentially four key messages that we are aiming to deliver. We are not communicating specifically to the people smugglers; it is the people they would try to convince to get onto a boat. Essentially it is about highlighting the reality of the hazardous nature of the actual journeys in the first place; the financial risks that they take by engaging people smugglers; the deceptions and lies of people smugglers, noting that there are numerous scams that they run; and, in reference to my comments earlier about often marketing to say New Zealand, as opposed to Australia. Fourthly, we highlight—and we do not hide this—the consequences of illegal migration to Australia. We make it very well known what the actual policy is that exists at the moment.

That program is delivered across 13 countries in 18 languages, everywhere from Afghanistan through to Vietnam, and other countries in between obviously. We use television, radio, press, print, online, social media, billboards, transit advertising, roadshows, leaflets, stickers and community workshops. Depending on the community and the culture, some channels and some means work better than others.

That campaign was expanded in 2013 to cover all of those. In some cases we use Department of Immigration and Border Protection personnel who might be part of a post in that country. In a lot of cases we will contract a service provider to conduct the survey and provide the information, as the secretary mentioned earlier, or to actually deliver that information through various means.

Senator O'SULLIVAN: For a lay person looking at this, it has been an outstanding success—the campaign with the information—if you want to measure it in the reduction in attempts and the outcomes that you have. But do you independently look at the efficacy of this effort? Do you go and test or perhaps run a poll in a cohort of people in Indonesia to see whether they have heard the message, whether they have received the message and what impact it had on them?

Major Gen. Bottrell : Yes, we do. In fact it has been quite extensive over the years. I think some of this has been covered in previous Senate estimates. There is a regular program of research and surveys conducted. I can very quickly run you through a number.

There were research surveys undertaken up until 2015 with Stat Consultants across Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran and Iraq. We had undertaken similar research through Red Elephant through Sri Lanka and Pakistan. There is regular feedback through the engagement of IOM, which is a two-way engagement in Myanmar and Bangladesh. We were looking at a specific issue there. We also have a broader program where IOM run a migrant outreach messaging program. One is in Indonesia. We also have IOM delivering information in Vietnam as well. So it is quite comprehensive across those areas.

We use essentially three tracks. Track 1 is a free-to-air—free media campaign. Track 2 is community liaison and outreach activities. Track 3 is a public information campaign. I would agree that it is an extremely broad program. There is a terrific little team that has pulled this together—well-resourced. And, I have to say, that targeting the people who are making the decisions, putting them at the core of the communications campaign, really is the success factor. We know that as soon as we stop doing that, people smugglers will fill that void. So the need to keep a consistent line of messaging across those various locations is important for us.

Mr Pezzullo : Senator, it is hard to quantify these things but, frankly, we have been in this game coming up to seven years now, and this effort is so effective it is probably worth a couple of warships to us in terms of the need to deploy assets. There is that ability to shape the environment, to make it very clear to people that they will lose their money; and previously, when the boats were flowing, that they could lose their lives. It is undercutting the confidence that a smuggler can create in the mind of someone who is perhaps operating on marginal hope; the smuggler tries to spin them into a greater level of hope, because all they want is their money. For the smuggler the outcome is getting the cash. So this is worth real capability to us. It does not completely obviate the need to undertake other measures; obviously you can never have a policy just based on one tool, but this is absolutely one of our most important tools.

Senator O'SULLIVAN: I think it has been an outstanding success and it continues to be. You need to take our congratulations to your staff. On the subject of staff, we have shown interest in this place before—and I certainly have—in relation to the impact on staff, which I imagine continues to impact on them, from that period when things were not quite as they are today. We are talking about the stress in the role, having to remove bodies of children and women and others from out of the sea. Firstly, I have a question about their general welfare. I imagine they are still within a system, still being supported?

Major Gen. Bottrell : I will refer this to the commissioner, but I will say that I have spoken to a lot of the men and women of the Australian Border Force and the Australian Defence Force who have been involved in this over the years. I think it is fair to say that a number of them will be carrying scars from what they lived through over their time, for various reasons. Obviously seeing fellow human beings suffer is a key issue. I know personally from the ADF side of the house that the measures to be able to deal with that are reasonably robust. I have looked briefly at what the Australian Border Force does, and I will leave it for the commissioner to comment but I think there is a reasonably robust regime there as well. But it is tough work. That is why I highlighted earlier the fantastic work that these men and women are doing—

Senator O'SULLIVAN: Hear, hear.

Major Gen. Bottrell : They are often in touch conditions and they are often behind the public eye and not seen.

Senator O'SULLIVAN: Before we go to the commissioner I suppose what I would like to know is—and I think I know the answer to my own question—but insofar as it could be measured, we would have to be in a better environment now; there would be perhaps even fewer active cases of staff who need support treatment or counselling?

Mr Quaedvlieg : Thank you for the question. As the secretary referenced, we have been in this game now for six or seven years, and it is fair to say that the majority of staff that are currently in our maritime operations are the same staff that were running these operations on the water for that period of time. In fact, when I joined Customs in mid-2013 we reached our peak in terms of operations on water, and they are still the same staff that are dealing with that volume of arrivals at the point where we were getting a SIEV, a suspected illegal entry vessel, every six hours. Yes, there were many safety-of-life-at-sea situations, there were many search-and-rescue situations and, yes, there were occasions where persons both deceased and still alive were pulled from the water.

I mentioned in previous evidence in hearings of this committee that I have a concern that while we have a very resilient workforce—it is one of the utmost professionalism and diligence in our maritime unit; every day when I deal with them I am impressed, both one on one or as an entire unit—as you well know, Senator, through your early career, post-traumatic stress disorder is not something that is always immediately evident. It has dormancy and it may come into effect or manifest at some later point in time in their careers. My concern is that the recent 2013 height is still relatively fresh and that there may well be causal factors for PTSD that may manifest at a later point in time.

You heard from Dr John Brayley earlier today and we talked about health, medical and clinical advice in relation to external clients—detainees. But, equally, he is also in parallel the Surgeon General of the Australian Border Force. I have asked him, when he has some spare capacity, to spend some of his clinical expertise in starting to examine the causal factors and the effect on our workforce—maritime in particular—and whether we cannot take any preventative action in terms of pre-emptive action now to prevent either future manifestation or the effect of PTSD at a later point in time.

Senator O'SULLIVAN: I expect that I speak for everyone—and I will close with just this little statement, if I can have the indulgence: just take back to them that there is a lot of really silent appreciation for what they have done. Sometimes the squeaky wheel gets heard, but I can tell you I think that the majority of us think they have done a splendid job. If you can, I would appreciate it if you could convey that on our behalf.

Mr Quaedvlieg : I will, Senator. That feedback is always appreciated, and I will pass it on personally.

CHAIR: Thanks, Senator O'Sullivan, that is certainly very true. We will finish on Operation Sovereign Borders. Thank you, again, very much, General Bottrell, and again for all the work that you and your team do. It is very much appreciated.

Gen. Bottrell : Thanks, Chair.

CHAIR: We will now move on to the Department of Immigration and Border Protection outcome 1:

Protect Australia’s sovereignty, security and safety by managing its border, including through managing the stay and departure of all non-citizens.

It is set out in programs 1.1 and 1.2 through to 1.5. We will just deal with them all together, I think might be the easiest way.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Can we have some figures as to what the current numbers are of those considered to be in the legacy case load?

Mr Pezzullo : In Australia?

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Yes.

Mr Pezzullo : Yes—I will just be assisted in that endeavour by acting Deputy Secretary Williams and his associates—or one of them, at least!

The number of the so-called legacy caseload is, in rough terms, 30,000. I will ask Mr Williams to break that down for you. Senator, were you asking about the overall number?

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Yes.

Mr Pezzullo : It is 30,000.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: I actually want the precise number.

Mr Pezzullo : You will get more precision from others.

Mr Williams : The numbers we have are: the legacy caseload is 6,000 illegal maritime arrivals who arrived prior to 13 August 2012 and 24,500 arrived who after that date.

Mr Pezzullo : Perhaps sum those for the senator: 30,000 and what?

Mr Williams : Thirty thousand, five hundred.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Have those figures changed at all in the last 12 months?

Mr Williams : Not to my knowledge. I will ask my colleague, Mr Kukoc to answer that.

Mr Kukoc : As we have started the processing of protection claims of the legacy caseload, some of them would have been finalised and they would have got either a TPV or a SHEV or have been finally refused. In that sense, they would drop off the caseload. Generally, we consider the total IMA legacy caseload that we are processing over the next three years to be around 30,500.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Have there been any individuals added to that category in the last 12 months?

Mr Pezzullo : Not as IMAs.

Mr Kukoc : No.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Not as IMAs?

Mr Pezzullo : There have been no illegal maritime arrivals—no.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: But has anybody who was outside of that category now been added?

Mr Pezzullo : No, because it just deals with the so-called legacy caseload of illegal maritime arrivals.

Mr Kukoc : All those illegal maritime arrivals arrived after 1 January 2014 are subject to offshore processing, so they normally do not join the legacy caseload that we are processing onshore.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Are there any individuals who have previously been held on Manus or Nauru who are now eligible for a protection visa in Australia, even if that means a temporary visa?

Mr Pezzullo : There is no-one eligible. If you have been transferred to either Manus in PNG or Nauru for regional processing, it is a mutually exclusive category. If you are transferred, you are transferred from the jurisdiction of the Australian Migration Act and you come under the migration acts of either Papua New Guinea or Nauru, as is the case.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: So there is not one individual who has been transferred back to Australia from either Manus or Nauru who has been invited to put forward an onshore application?

Mr Pezzullo : I am pretty certain the answer is no, there is no such person, but I will ask the officers to confirm that. I cannot see the legal circumstances under which that could arise, but I will check.

Mr Kukoc : There is a group of transferees for whom the government has made an arrangement or agreed with crossbench senators to bring them into the fast-track process as part of the arrangement for the passage of the RALC Act, the onshore protection act, and the protection and other measures bill. That group is, I believe, around 100 people and they are waiting for some decision. A legislative instrument will be brought into the fast-track for processing.

Mr Pezzullo : Those persons are in Australia.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Yes, they are in Australia now and now they are part of the legacy caseload group.

Mr Kukoc : Not as yet. The minister needs to make a decision and there needs to be a legislative instrument tabled in parliament before they could be brought into the fast-track process. Perhaps our colleagues from policy could outline the policy situation with that group. That was specifically part of the arrangements for the passage of the RALC Act and the protection and other measures bill.

Mr Wilden : As Mr Kukoc just said, there is a specific cohort that, once the minister has signed a determination, if he chooses to do so, will then be included in the overall number in addition to the 30,500 mentioned before.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: This is the group as part of the negotiation with Senator Ricky Muir?

Mr Kukoc : That is correct.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: That arrangement was struck in December 2014. We are now in February 2016. You are saying the minister has not lifted the bar to allow them to have their applications assessed onshore?

Mr Wilden : That is correct.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Why has it not happened yet?

Mr Wilden : I cannot speak for the minister on that. As you know, there have been several pieces of legislation that have been going through over the last year or so. But, as to why it has not been yet signed, I cannot speak for the minister.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: The minister has the ability to lift the bar, to allow people to have an application put forward onshore. It is not a legislative requirement that—

Mr Wilden : It is a ministerial instrument, correct.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: So the minister can do that.

Mr Wilden : Yes.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: He made this arrangement, struck this deal, well over a year ago. So where are these people living? Are they in detention? Are they in the community?

Mr Wilden : I would have to take that on notice for that individual group.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Are there any other individuals who are waiting for the minister to lift the bar so that an application can be put forward onshore?

Mr Pezzullo : The whole point of the processing apparatus that has now been established under the legislation is that applications come forward that are shepherded by the department for the bar to be lifted; they are put to the minister in bulk, as I recall it, because there are so many of them; and the relevant division works through that case load as best they can. I will just get Mr Kukoc to further outline how he goes about that work.

Mr Kukoc : So far the minister has lifted the bar for over 12,000 people, and we have commenced processing for many of those. The bar is lifted on a gradual basis to enable orderly processing. Since the commencement of the fast-track processing, which was last year on 1 July, so in the last six or seven months, the minister has lifted the bar for over half of the fast-track case load of 24,500. The minister has lifted the bar for 12,155. For the rest of the case load, for the other case load, we expect the bar to be lifted in the coming months.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: So the total figure of people in this group that either already have or will eventually have the bar lifted is 30,500?

Mr Kukoc : No. It is 24,500 people who are subject to the fast-track process, for whom the minister has to lift the 46A bar for them to be able to be processed for TPV or SHEV. The other 6,000 were people who previously lodged an application for a permanent protection visa and are, by legislation, deemed to have applied for a temporary protection visa, so they do not need—

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: They do not need the bar lifted.

Mr Kukoc : They do not need the bar lifted.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: So is that exactly 30,500?

Mr Kukoc : It is 30,500 altogether—24,500 fast-track and 6,000 what we call transitional case load.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: This time last year we were talking about a figure of just under 29,000—28,819. I am just wondering where all those extra people have come from.

Mr Kukoc : I will need to take that question on notice. We have the stats as of today.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: I cannot see how it would have gone up, unless you are adding more people into either of those categories. I do not know where those people are coming if, as the secretary says, no IMAs are getting to Australia and, if they did, they would go to Manus and Nauru anyway. I am trying to work out how why we have gone up from 28,819 to now 30,500.

Mr Kukoc : It is probably to do with how we defined the various case loads in the IMA group. As you know, this case load has been subject to many policy and legislative changes. Some in the past were processed under the permanent protection visa legislation. Some were part of the non-statutory process and they were then brought into the statutory process. We finally have the legislative framework defined and we can now with certainty say that we have 6,000 people who are deemed to have applied for TPV based on their previous permanent protection visa application and 24,500 people for whom the minister needs to lift the bar to be able to brought into the fast-track process for TPV.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: So that I am absolutely correct and sure about this: are the extra 100 people who are waiting for the minister to approve—which was part of the deal with Senator Muir—included in your figure of 30,500?

Mr Kukoc : I do not think so, but I will confirm that on notice. I think they will come on top of that.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: So that we are talking apples and apples, could you give me the exact figures that the department had in February estimates last year for the same group of people? I just want to be clear that the figure I had then was 28,819.

Mr Kukoc : I remember giving evidence in the estimates in May last year and in October last year, and I was always operating on 30,500. I do not remember what happened in February. We will take this on notice.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Thank you. Out of that 30,500 group, what percentage of those are on current bridging visas?

Mr Kukoc : Most of them are actually in the community bridging visas. About 25,820 are on bridging visas. They are in the community. About 1,423 have expired bridging visas but are still out there in the community. They will be renewed bridging visas until they are processed. We have about 418 in community detention and around 393 in held detention.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Sorry; what was that figure of expired bridging visas?

Mr Kukoc : About 1,423.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Why are their visas expired?

Mr Kukoc : I think my colleagues from Border Force will be better placed to talk about that, but I understand bridging visas have an expiry date and then after they need to re-engage with the department and go through a process for another bridging visa grant.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: So it does not just happen automatically?

Mr Kukoc : No, because we need to keep IMAs in the community re-engaged with the department. That is why they are given a bridging visa with a certain expiry date. They also have certain obligations towards the department in terms of maintaining their communication, contacts, address and all of that.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: If someone's bridging visa has expired, how long does that last?

Mr Kukoc : Ms Dunn, First Assistant Secretary, Community Protection, is better placed to talk about bridging visas.

Ms Dunn : When people are released into the community on a bridging visa they are required to keep in contact with the department. Their bridging visas last for a particular time, depending on their personal circumstances. Some people disengage and do not keep in contact with the department, and their bridging visa expires.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: That is a lot of people who are in the community without any type of visa—1,400.

Ms Dunn : I do not have those figures here with me at the moment—

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: That is just what we have been given.

Ms Dunn : Yes.

Mr Kukoc : At any point in time there may be people whose visa has just expired and they are in the process of contacting the department.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: One thousand, four hundred people in the community without a visa?

Mr Kukoc : We are talking about 25,000 people on bridging visas, so given the short term of the bridging visa it is possible at any point in time that there are a number of people who are in the process of renewing their bridging visas.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: What is the shortest and the longest time frame for validity of a bridging visa.

Ms Dunn : The period can vary from a few days, if somebody is making arrangements to depart, to—

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Sorry—let me be very specific. I am talking about this group of people. I do not think we need to be cute about saying that people are about to depart. Let us be really clear about this group of 30,500 people.

Ms Dunn : Yes. It depends on the circumstances of the people involved, and it can be from a very short period to quite an extended period, for example, if they are currently at judicial review. There is no way that I can answer that question. I could take it on notice and come back to give you an idea of the average or the range or whatever you would prefer.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: I would like the average time and the range—the shortest and the longest periods of validity of the bridging visas for the case load group that have been granted.

Senator BILYK: I want to ask about the Manus Island RPC. What is the current number of asylum seekers that have been determined to be genuine refugees?

Mr Pezzullo : We might need to change over to some of the senior executives. Ms Briscoe, the deputy commissioner for support, gave those figures earlier today, so I might just ask her to refresh us all. It is somewhere in the order of over 700 that are determined to be refugees and somewhere in the order of 350 who are still going through the process in rough numbers. Ms Briscoe had that evidence, but you might not have been present though.

Senator BILYK: No—I am doing more than one estimates.

Mr Pezzullo : Indeed. So I might just ask the deputy commissioner to just repeat her earlier evidence. Sorry—did you say Nauru or Manus?

Senator BILYK: Manus to start with.

Mr Pezzullo : I think the deputy commissioner gave numbers for Manus as well with in any event.

Ms Briscoe : In relation to Manus Island, 472 are deemed to be refugees. There are 404 transferees and 46 that are 'final negative', so their processing is completed and they have not been found to be refugees.

Mr Pezzullo : And just at the risk of having mislead you—when I talked about 700-odd plus 350, that was for Nauru.

Senator BILYK: So where are those 472 people living now?

Ms Briscoe : There are 415 remaining in the RPC, and 50 are located in the transit centre at East Lorengau. Six have settled in the PNG community and there has been one refugee that has voluntarily returned home.

Senator BILYK: So how many have been settled in the community?

Ms Briscoe : Six.

Senator BILYK: In answers to question on notice SE 15-027, the department stated that this announcement, the announcement made on 23 October 2015, 'paved the way for settlement to commence'. So have those six been settled in the last three months?

Ms Briscoe : Yes.

Mr Pezzullo : Are you referring to the announcement by the government of PNG of the establishment of a settlement policy?

Senator BILYK: The national refugee policy, yes.

Mr Pezzullo : Yes. That would be from that time.

Senator BILYK: So that is the six?

Ms Briscoe : That is correct.

Senator BILYK: Did you say 46 have been determined not to be refugees?

Ms Briscoe : Yes.

Senator BILYK: And one voluntarily returned home?

Ms Briscoe : One refugee, yes.

Senator BILYK: And have any involuntary returns been attempted by the PNG authorities, do we know?

Ms Briscoe : Yes, there were two.

Senator BILYK: Are you able to tell me how many incidents have been in the RPC since last estimates?

Mr Pezzullo : What nature of incident?

Senator BILYK: Any incidents that have caused unrest?

Ms Briscoe : I will ask Ms Moy to come—

Mr Pezzullo : That have caused unrest?

Senator BILYK: Yes, or that have caused minor or serious injuries to detainees or staff.

Mr Pezzullo : I am not sure that there has been any unrest that fits that description since our last meeting, but Ms Moy might have a better recollection or facts to hand.

Ms Moy : The secretary is correct. In terms of unrest, we have not had any incidents necessarily involving groups of people that have caused any incidents. There have been some individual incidents with individuals but no major unrests.

Senator BILYK: When you are talking individual incidents, what are you talking about?

Ms Moy : Since last estimates, there have been allegations of three antisocial behaviours.

Senator BILYK: What would that be—being drunk or something? Sorry, I do not want to put words in your mouth; do you want to tell me what they might be?

Ms Moy : It probably would not be being drunk, but antisocial behaviour could be—

Senator BILYK: It is a pretty broad definition.

Ms Moy : It is quite broad.

Mr Pezzullo : Ms Moy, is that three since October?

Ms Moy : That is correct.

Mr Pezzullo : You would have that every hour down at Mooseheads, wouldn't you, here in Canberra? We might just need to check with the former chief police—

Ms Moy : I beg your pardon, Senator, I am looking at the ELTRC, which is the East Lorengau Refugee Transit Centre. They have had three since last estimates. In the Manus RPC, there have been 138 antisocial behaviour incidents.

Senator BILYK: In Manus?

Ms Moy : That is correct.

Senator BILYK: I still want to know what is deemed to be antisocial. Is using an expletive antisocial? Is being drunk? What is the definition you use for antisocial behaviour?

Ms Moy : There would not be anyone who would be drunk within the centre because we do not have alcohol; however, it would be classified as someone who may be pushing in the food line, when they are going to the mess. It could be, as you say, verbal abuse or verbal contact with someone else that was complained about by the other individual.

Senator BILYK: Can you give me a breakdown? You would have that information, would you not?

Ms Moy : Of the 138?

Senator BILYK: Yes, of what level of antisocial behaviour they exhibited, if they were pushing, if they were using expletives—

Ms Moy : I would have to take that on notice.

Senator BILYK: Thank you.

Mr Pezzullo : I think a push might be an assault. We will check the thresholds and come back to you.

Senator BILYK: Have there been any medical emergencies since last estimates? If so, what was the nature of these emergencies?

Mr Pezzullo : We might have to take that on notice. There would be folks who, regrettably, have had seizures or have collapsed.

Senator BILYK: I am happy for it to be taken on notice.

Mr Pezzullo : We might just take that on notice, rather than—

Senator BILYK: There is a new medical facility there, isn't there?

Mr Pezzullo : There is certainly an enhanced facility. I cannot remember whether it is brand-new or—

Senator BILYK: Sure. If you are taking that on notice, you might want to take on notice for me also—I presume you cannot answer it now—what has been the nature of injuries and illnesses treated in the facility since the last estimates.

Ms Briscoe : Regarding a piece of information I do have, for the period July to December, we had three individuals transferred via air ambulance, so you could consider that as a medical emergency.

Mr Pezzullo : Where to?

Ms Briscoe : From Manus to Australia.

Senator BILYK: Because I have been in and out of the room—apologies for that; that is the life of some of us—I want to ask a few questions about Nauru as well. Shall I ask the same people?

Mr Pezzullo : Yes.

Senator BILYK: How many asylum seekers are still in the RPC?

Mr Pezzullo : I think we gave some evidence earlier today, noting that the RPC is now an open centre. It provides support for persons who are no longer detainees. But I will just see if either Ms Briscoe or Ms Moy have the numbers.

Ms Briscoe : There are 357 transferees.

Mr Pezzullo : Who take advantage of the services?

Ms Briscoe : Yes, the open centre.

Senator BILYK: How many children are in that?

Ms Briscoe : That includes 56 children.

Senator BILYK: How many of those people found to be refugees are still living within the RPC?

Ms Briscoe : In addition to that 357—so they are not yet found to be refugees—there are 180 who have been found to be refugees still living in the RPC.

Senator BILYK: Is that by choice or because there is no housing available for them in the community?

Ms Briscoe : That is related to the availability of settlement accommodation, which has been coming on in batches since November and will continue to do so.

Senator BILYK: As in houses?

Ms Briscoe : Yes.

Senator BILYK: You will have to take this on notice, I am sure. Just tell us how many houses are ready and what the time frame is for the rest of them.

Ms Briscoe : There are 840 living in the community. That does not necessarily tell you the number of houses, because people would be living in family groups.

Senator BILYK: I am interested in how long it is going to take for the 180 who could be living out in housing to be able to get there.

Ms Briscoe : I do not have that off the top of my head. I will take that on notice.

Senator BILYK: I saw an officer jump up at the back, so I am not sure if he has something there.

Mr Wright : As part of the RPC 3 redevelopment, 120 beds came on line in November 2015 and a further 132 beds—

Senator BILYK: That is in the RPC, though?

Mr Wright : That is in the RPC, yes.

Senator BILYK: I am interested in the 180 people who could be out living in housing who are not. There is no housing available for them yet.

Mr Wright : The RPC has been repurposed to be permanent settlement accommodation.

Senator BILYK: Yes, I saw that. But are these 180 people going to get housing?

Ms Briscoe : It is hard walled accommodation that is being built in a section that was the RPC. I am not sure you would call it a house as we would describe a house, but it is hard walled modular accommodation, as some of the other settlement sites are.

Senator BILYK: Is it self-contained for families?

Ms Briscoe : Yes. Mr Wright can describe the facility.

Mr Wright : Yes. There are separate bedrooms. It has a kitchenette and a separate living room. So they have been set up as accommodation for families. Some may call it a house; others may call it an apartment, but it is hard walled, air-conditioned accommodation.

CHAIR: Infinitely better than they left, I would suggest, in most cases. Does anyone have any stats on that?

Mr Pezzullo : You can surmise that.

Senator BILYK: If there are more questions on that specific housing situation, I will put them on notice. Are you able to tell me in regard to Nauru how many asylum seekers have been transferred to Australia for medical assistance since the last estimates?

Mr Pezzullo : I am not sure that Ms Briscoe gave the evidence about since the last estimates. I think she has given the aggregate numbers who are here for medical support and, in the answer to Senator Hanson-Young, the numbers of those who have then been joined to the legal case. But I do not whether you have the flying total or the evolving total since October.

Senator BILYK: If you want to take it on notice, can you give me a breakdown of how many were children, how many of the medical transfers were for instances of self-harm—

Mr Pezzullo : Since the last estimates?

Senator BILYK: yes—

Mr Pezzullo : Okay—thank you.

Senator BILYK: and how many of the medical transfers were for instances of alleged sexual assault?

Mr Pezzullo : We have taken the aggregate number on notice from Senator Hanson-Young. So what we will do is particularise it pre-estimates—I think 23 October, or whatever it was—and post.

Senator BILYK: Great—thank you.

Mr Pezzullo : That will then answer both questions.

Senator BILYK: Who makes the final decision in regard to transferring someone for medical treatment?

Mr Pezzullo : Just to summarise the evidence given by officers earlier this morning: it is a collective decision. It is based on clinical medical advice. Our service provider is IHMS. They provide an initial view. That is now discussed—since his appointment—with the chief medical officer, who supervises and superintends clinical governance. In the end, administrative decision makers have regard to those medical advices within Ms Briscoe's group, and they make the delegated decisions about returns.

Senator BILYK: How long would the average length of stay in Australia for medical treatment be? Do we know that?

Ms Briscoe : I do not have that.

Mr Pezzullo : Again, I think we have taken that on notice in the context of the aggregate number, how long they have been here and what their conditions are. It might be best to now add the average length of stay as a subelement of that question. I think that is the best way to handle that.

Senator BILYK: How much does it cost to transport detainees between Nauru and Australia for treatment?

Mr Pezzullo : They are transferees; they are no longer detainees. I might see if Ms Briscoe has some information.

Ms Briscoe : It will depend on the way in which they are transferred. I do not have the numbers for either, but there is air ambulance, if it is an emergency, or a regular charter. That charter could be being used for multiple purposes, so I do not have a figure for an individual.

Senator BILYK: Are you able to work out a figure?

Mr Pezzullo : We will look at that, as best we can, on notice, noting that the rate of returns is reducing because of the enhancement of the medical amenity on the island. That will be further improved when both stages of the current redevelopment project that was mentioned earlier today—and I apologise, Senator; I cannot recall whether you were in the room or not. That will significantly enhance the organic medical capacity on the island, so over time the rate of transfers to Australia will reduce even further.

Senator KIM CARR: That sounds too extraordinary to be true. How many of the senior executive officers now in the department are wearing uniforms in the department itself?

Mr Pezzullo : In the SES ranks?

Senator KIM CARR: Yes.

Mr Pezzullo : The rough split probably equates to the rough split of the workforce. The overall workforce is 14,000, of which the ABF we are building to—Commissioner, I think you said 6,000?

Mr Quaedvlieg : Just under.

Mr Pezzullo : I might see if my colleague the commissioner agrees with me. Would that represent the split then within the SES? Is that the rough ratio?

Mr Quaedvlieg : Roughly, yes. We could take the numbers, but it is less than half. That is in the Australian Border Force component.

Senator KIM CARR: That is right. So, in the senior executive service, how many wear uniform?

Mr Quaedvlieg : Less than half in the Border Force, which means that it is even less across the entire department, proportionally.

Mr Pezzullo : We will take that on notice. There are designated positions within our blended, integrated senior executive.

Senator KIM CARR: If I could just see on a chart how many wear uniforms.

Mr Pezzullo : They have titles because they are sworn officers, from the commissioner down, so they are easily identified. In fact, a number of them are sitting at the table, as you can see. It will not be that hard to count those.

Senator KIM CARR: Thank you.

Mr Pezzullo : It certainly is less than half, as the commissioner said.

CHAIR: Do we have any knowledge of the types of places of residence that these people have before they embark upon their journey to Australia? Is that the sort of intelligence that is collected?

Mr Pezzullo : I would not characterise it as intelligence that is collected. Certainly, when persons are interviewed as to their claims, it is inevitably the case that matters of their living circumstances arise. As to how we catalogue that and how we, if you like, aggregate that data, I might just see if colleagues at the table can assist or other colleagues can come forward. The short answer is: yes, we might well have an awareness of their living circumstances simply because we have to interview them about their previous lives. Are you asking about things like housing and access to—

CHAIR: I assume many of them would allege that they came from refugee camps somewhere in the Middle East.

Mr Pezzullo : Some do, and some say that they have been living in remote areas, seeking to avoid other ethnic groups. There are all different sorts of life stories that people bring to these circumstances. I do not hear the rush of thundering hooves behind me. What we will do is take on notice whether we aggregate the data that we pick up through those interviews, to see if we can answer your question. I think we would have a sense of people's prior living circumstances, yes. How we capture that data I do not know.

CHAIR: Along the lines that we were talking of earlier today, there are allegations of substandard accommodation at Manus and Nauru. It certainly may well be substandard by Australian standards, although fully air-conditioned separate bedrooms and bathrooms do not seem to me to be all that different to what the average Australian family would experience. I just worry about these allegations of inadequate accommodation on those places and compare it with where these people have come from. I would imagine that most of them would think the sort of accommodation that is described would be palaces compared to what they have come from, if they are from a refugee camp, as I am sure many of them would claim. Are you going to take that on notice?

Mr Pezzullo : Mr Williams appears to be volunteering, so we will ask Mr Williams to have a go.

Mr Williams : I am volunteering, but I am not going to be able to offer you too much comfort. I am almost positive that we do not capture that data in the sort of aggregated way that we could report on sensibly, but it is certainly true that we do ask people for a lot of information about their previous living circumstances in order to make an assessment about their visa eligibility. It ranges from the sorts of questions we have to ask in some detail for refugee applicants to sometimes very basic information for other sorts of visas.

CHAIR: Is it worth, on notice, asking you to give us a general commentary on that, or is that just too difficult?

Mr Williams : We will do our best, but it is not the sort of information that—it is usually held on case files as part of the kind of text material that is held or in the computer in that sense. So we will have a go, but I do not want to give you false hope.

CHAIR: Do not spend too much time on it. I understand that Mr Quaedvlieg indicated earlier to the committee that he would not be available after the dinner break, which the committee accepted. Thank you for advising us. But there will be other officers here should things come up that need your assistance. We will continue with outcome 1.

Proceedings suspended from 18:33 to 19:38

CHAIR: Welcome to Senator Scott Ryan, who has joined us. We are dealing with outcome 1 in the Department of Immigration and Border Protection.

Ms Dacey : For your information, chair, the secretary has just had to pop out for a short period, so I will be covering for him for that time—just so you know the arrangement.

CHAIR: You will do it very well, I am sure.

Ms Dacey : We shall see. Thank you.

CHAIR: You have just about carried it all today. I should say that when he is present—by way of light-hearted comment, I might say. Well done.

Ms Dacey : Thank you.

CHAIR: Mr Outram has taken over the Border Force as well.

Mr Outram : Indeed.

CHAIR: Senator Madigan.

Senator MADIGAN: There have been a number of inquiries into Australia's offshore processing arrangements in recent years. We know from various reports produced by these inquiries that asylum seekers detained on Nauru and Manus Island have been exposed to rape, sexual exploitation and violence, and have extremely high rates of mental illness often leading to self-harm and occasionally suicide. There have been a number of recommendations made, including by Senate select committee, as to how some of these problems could be alleviated, yet very little seems to have changed. May I ask whether the department has accepted any of the recommendations made by those examining the issue and, if so, what steps the department is taking to implement these recommendations.

Dr Charker : Thanks, Senator. I can certainly handle that on behalf of the department, and then I will defer to my colleague Deputy Commissioner Briscoe for additional commentary. Just by way of preface, I would like to emphasise that the department takes all recommendations and the outcome of review works very seriously. We have been putting in place a number of steps over recent times to try to address and offer better quality of standards in services that we offer on behalf of the department, both onshore and offshore. But I will refer to Deputy Commissioner Briscoe or Cheryl-anne Moy for some additional information going to the specifics of some of the reviews and the particular recommendations that you have raised.

Ms Moy : Just bear with me for one moment while I find the correct brief. As the deputy secretary, Dr Charker, mentioned, the government and the department take the recommendations very seriously. The recommendations from the Senate Nauru select committee inquiry came to the department. We have accepted those recommendations that we are able to undertake. So, where the department is able to influence and enact a recommendation that is accepted by the government, we are able to do that. There also has to be the understanding that the regional processing centre and the refugee settlement in Nauru are run by the government of Nauru. We cannot enforce upon the government of Nauru any activities that they either are unable to undertake or do not agree with. So it is a delicate balance to ensure that we work with the government of Nauru to provide the best possible service and welfare environment through our service providers to the government of Nauru, as requested, but there are also going to be some issues that the government of Nauru will be responsible for, if they agree to take them on, or that they may not agree with.

Senator MADIGAN: Are you able to give us any examples of anything the department has successfully been able to do to protect men, women and children from being exposed to an environment that is self-evidently causing them physical and psychological trauma?

Ms Moy : The work that is undertaken with the government of Nauru is in various quarters. There is work undertaken, through the joint advisory committee, on the safety and security of residents in Nauru, be they refugees or transferees. That work is undertaken with the joint advisory committee, which has a number of experts who provide advice to the governments of Australia and Nauru as to how to manage integrations in these particular circumstances—people who have had experience with this or with security matters before.

I mentioned earlier in the sittings today that there is a considerable network of cultural liaison officers who work in Nauru—both Nauruans and refugees—on the safety and security of people within the settlements and within the general community. There is also a considerable amount of work done by Connect Settlement Services, who are the providers that Australia provides to the government of Nauru to provide welfare services, accommodation services and education services and to engage with people to get children to school—those sorts of protective behaviours that encourage parents to be more protective of children, which therefore increases the safety and security around children. So there is a lot of work done in creating self-agency for people to be able to look after their families. The open centre arrangements that commenced in October 2015 have not only considerably contributed to that in terms of the free movement of people in Nauru but also—as the refugee accommodation comes online and more people are out in the community in refugee accommodation, living in settlements or in houses in Nauru—provided families with a lot more self-agency in how they go about living their lives. There are about 297 people from the refugee community in Nauru who are in gainful employment. Some are running their own businesses. There has been quite an amount of work done to encourage people to live their lives in a safe and secure way that also ensures integration within the community.

Senator MADIGAN: The decision of the High Court last week has cleared the way for the government to return 267 asylum seekers to Nauru. There are a number of individuals within this group who are known to have been victims of rape and child abuse. These individuals and many others within this group are deeply traumatised, yet the government has given every indication it will nonetheless return them to the environment that caused their trauma. Has the department planned for the return of these individuals, and are there any plans to enhance the trauma counselling services available at the detention facility in anticipation of their arrival?

Ms Moy : Both the minister and the secretary, and others giving evidence today, have confirmed that when somebody is clinically assessed as fit to travel back to Nauru—to the regional processing country—the consideration around the transfer of that person will be both compassionate and related to their individual circumstances. There are a number of people in that cohort of people to be returned to Nauru once the M68 legalities are sorted who will possibly not return for a considerable period of time because of their current issues. Some people may be ready to go earlier and some will not be ready to go for six months or more. Some are currently receiving trauma and torture counselling if that is clinically indicated as required for them; that service is also available in Nauru. But the movement of people is not planned as such. At the moment there is no list of people I am arranging to tick off. It is a case of looking at them case by case and seeing whether or not they are clinically indicated as being able to return at this point.

Ms Briscoe : In relation to health, the secretary mentioned earlier that considerable enhancements have been made to facilities, equipment and staffing through the Republic of Nauru Hospital. Last week, commissioned with the government of Nauru, there were a range of new facilities in the order of $13 million worth of upgrades which include facilities for mental health. Also, after the Moss review, there were a range of recommendations implemented to enhance safety and security within the RPC, as well as the setting up of further mental health services in the RPC. As the population has changed and more people are in the community, we have enhanced the services at the Republic of Nauru Hospital. To give you an idea, there are 12 mental health workers within the RPC and another seven in the Republic of Nauru settlement clinic. So we have continued to enhance the mental health support for people in Nauru.

Senator MADIGAN: Given there are no longer boatloads of asylum seekers arriving on our shores—which the government frequently cites as evidence of the success of its policies—and given the growing body of evidence that detention has long-term implications for the mental health of men, women and children alike, is there any consideration within the department of moving away from the extremely harsh policy settings currently in place? In particular, is the department planning or actively contemplating the release of children from detention as recommended by the Australian Human Rights Commission?

CHAIR: Senator Madigan, it is up to you to ask whatever questions you like, of course, but all of these matters were canvassed at length earlier in the day.

Senator MADIGAN: Okay.

CHAIR: Whilst you will get answers now, a lot of the preamble and the basis on which you are asking your questions were negatived by officials during the day. By way of help, I suggest that you might like to have a look at the Hansard of the day's earlier evidence because a lot of the things you are putting were refuted at that time.

Senator MADIGAN: Thank you, Chair.

CHAIR: That is by way of help—but over to the officers for a repeat of the answers.

Ms Moy : The number of children in detention has reduced considerably. The minister has made public statements and also given us his views on how we can move children out of detention. We continue to work to assess a number of people who are in detention at the moment. You would understand that children are not in detention for any reason to do with themselves. The reason generally attaches to their parents and the reason they are in detention. We are working through that at the moment. I have staff who are working full time on how we can reduce the number of children in detention and move them into the community, generally into community detention. There will be a number of children with parents who have adverse security issues. We continue to work through those. As was said in earlier evidence, with some families where there is one parent with a number of children, we have suggested the children be moved from held detention into community detention, but that has in some cases been refused by the family. So even in attempting to move some children from detention, we do have some parental objection. We are working through the issues involved in moving children out of detention and we think the numbers will continue to decline rapidly.


CHAIR: We will move on from outcome 9 to outcome 2: 'support a prosperous and inclusive society and advance Australia's economic interests through effective management of visa and citizenship programs and provision of refugee and humanitarian assistance'.

Senator BILYK: I will start with citizenship. Are you able to tell me how many citizenship applications are currently on hand?

Ms Dacey : To 31 December last year, conferral applications were 92,857, descent applications were 10, 494, evidence applications were 19,973, resumption applications were 125 and renunciation applications were 119.

Senator BILYK: Are you able to tell me how many of those applicants have successfully sat the citizenship test yet have not attended a ceremony and made the pledge of commitment?

Ms Dacey : I can give you the number of tests and the number of clients who have sat the test, but I am not sure I could link it up to the gap between those numbers and those attending ceremonies.

Mr Williams : We do have figures on the number of people who are currently waiting for a ceremony. That would give you a rough idea. The number of tests administered in the year to 31 December was 63,785. That represented 52,379 applicants, because some people sat the test a couple of times. And the number of people waiting to attend a ceremony—this is a snapshot; I do not quite have the date for it—is, as at the end of December 2015, I think 21,194.

Senator BILYK: Even though Australia Day was in January?

Mr Williams : That is right. So, I think these figures—and I will confirm this on notice—are probably from the end of December. There were some 16,000 new Australian citizenship conferrals on Australia Day and in ceremonies around—16,200 or so. A lot of those would have been—

Senator BILYK: That leaves a gap of about 5,000 that have passed the test—

Mr Williams : Yes, there is always a bit of a gap.

Senator BILYK: but not yet attended a ceremony or taken the pledge.

Mr Williams : That is right, but I will just confirm that. If I have that wrong we will let you know on notice.

Senator BILYK: Thanks. And while you are doing that, maybe you could tell me, for the same question, how many sat the test but had not yet attended a ceremony or made the pledge for 30 June 2013, for 30 June 2014 and for 30 June 2015?

Mr Williams : I can tell you how many people sat the test in the financial year 2012-13.

Senator BILYK: I really want to know how many sat the test but had not yet attended a ceremony or made the pledge, because they have been getting concerns to us that there is a delay in being able to take the pledge—which of course you have to do to become an Australian citizen.

Mr Williams : That is right. I do not have the number of people waiting for a ceremony on that date that you nominated. We have only a snapshot for that most recent date in time.

Senator BILYK: Okay, but if you could take that on notice—

Mr Williams : Will do—for the—

Senator BILYK: For 30 June 2013, 2014, and 2015.

Mr Williams : For each of those years; righto.

Senator BILYK: And perhaps you could provide that information by country of birth.

Mr Williams : Will do.

Senator BILYK: What is the median amount of time after someone has successfully completed the citizen test to gain citizenship?

Ms Dacey : The average number of days from approval to acquiring is 119.

Senator BILYK: What is the amount of time for the 10 per cent of applications that are shortest and longest in terms of time between successfully sitting the test and attending a citizenship ceremony.

Ms Dacey : You want the outliers—is that right?

Senator BILYK: Yes.

Ms Dacey : We would have to take that on notice.

Senator BILYK: That is fine.

Ms Dacey : Can you tell me how many ministerial determinations have been made under section 26(3), which is:

If the person is required to make a pledge of commitment and has not done so, the Minister may determine, in writing, that the person cannot make the pledge until the end of a specified period if the Minister is satisfied …

Are you able to tell me that for each of the years 2013-14, 2014-15 and 2015-16?

Mr Williams : Yes, on notice.

Senator BILYK: And, once again, perhaps you could do that country of birth as well. Thank you. Would all the determinations being made be made for a period of 12 months if the minister determines—26(3)?

Mr Williams : I would have to check that. I do not know the answer to that.

Senator BILYK: Okay; take it on notice. Are you able to tell me about the process behind the minister making a determination?

Mr Williams : No. It is not something I have a great deal of depth of knowledge about. Again, I could take it on notice and provide you an explanation.

Senator BILYK: Thank you. So, you probably cannot tell me then how applicants are notified about the determination?

Mr Williams : No, only on notice.

Senator BILYK: Once again, when you are taking this on notice—and I presume all the questions about determination are going to be taken on notice—can you let me know whether they have to acknowledge the determination, what factors are used in the determination and whether character and identity is included, and whether these factors have been assessed already for visa grants?

Mr Williams : Will do.

Senator BILYK: Has any recent national security legislation impacted on the process of issuing determinations?

Mr Williams : No. No national security legislation has impacted on that aspect.

Senator BILYK: There has been no change there at all?

Mr Williams : Not to that aspect, no.

Senator BILYK: That is all on citizenship from me.

CHAIR: I have a question on citizenship, but I will be very brief. Are the rules for New Zealanders applying to become Australian citizens different than for anyone else?

Mr Williams : No, they are not. New Zealanders do, though, need to acquire permanent residence before they are eligible for citizenship. So, a New Zealander who is in Australia on the usual status—New Zealanders carry the 444 visa that the Secretary mentioned earlier in the day—does not have permanent residence for the purposes of acquiring citizenship.

CHAIR: Just remind me what the 444 visa is.

Mr Williams : It is the visa that allows New Zealand nationals to come and go without restriction as to time or working conditions and things. People do not know they have one, but they do when they come in and out of Australia from New Zealand.

CHAIR: So, it happens automatically—

Mr Williams : It happens automatically.

CHAIR: and without the knowledge, very often, of—and the same applies in reverse, to Australians going to New Zealand?

Mr Williams : I think the situation is probably somewhat different. They probably treat Australians in a different manner. But I am not an expert on New Zealand's arrangements.

CHAIR: So, to become a permanent resident—

Mr Williams : A New Zealand citizen, just like any other foreign national, applies for one of the migration categories that are in the migration program—a skilled visa or a partner visa or something of that nature. And then once they have qualified in terms of the time they have spent as a permanent resident on that kind of visa, just like anybody else who has migrated to Australia, they have four years to wait until they are able to apply citizenship. They can then do it at that point.

CHAIR: So, you get your permanent residence visa, and then you wait four years and apply for citizenship.

Mr Williams : That is right.

CHAIR: And that is the same with every other person wanting—

Mr Williams : For every other foreign national on a visa, yes.

CHAIR: So, unskilled New Zealanders in Australia who do not have an Australian partner would find it difficult?

Mr Williams : Yes, probably on the face of it they may not qualify for a permanent resident visa or a migration visa unless they have skills or a particular family connection with an Australian. The vast majority of New Zealanders never acquire Australian citizenship, but they are able to travel to Australia without restriction and they are able to work in Australia—provided that they are of good character.

Senator BILYK: Just to clarify: there is no time limit on how long you can stay with the 444?

Mr Williams : That is right. There is no time limit.

Senator BILYK: So, as long as you are lawful—

Mr Pezzullo : New Zealand is the only country that falls into that category.

Senator BILYK: But as long as you are lawful you could be here for 60 years or 70 years or something.

Mr Pezzullo : Quite a long time, yes.

Senator BILYK: If you chose.

CHAIR: And you do not have to go back to New Zealand to apply for a permanent residency?

Mr Pezzullo : No.

Mr Williams : It might depend on the visa category.

CHAIR: So, apart from getting the vote, what advantage is there to New Zealanders to (a) applying for permanent residency and (b) becoming Australian citizens?

Mr Williams : Well, there is a range of rights and obligations associated with citizenship, beyond voting—the right to carry an Australian passport, and obligations around participating in Australia in a lawful manner and according to Australian values. Citizenship carries a lot of extra weight beyond the right to vote.

Mr Pezzullo : There are also restrictions on benefits, aren't there?

Mr Williams : There are some restrictions on things like benefits available through the social services net in Australia.

CHAIR: Can you say in a blanket way that New Zealand residents who are noncitizens are not entitled to any Australian benefits or tax concessions—

Mr Pezzullo : No, they get a range of benefits, but they are not as generous as what a citizen would get. There are some restrictions in terms of access. We are not experts in this, because this is not our portfolio, but I know that there are restrictions in access to certain entitlements that an Australian citizen has that a New Zealand citizen who is here for even quite a prolonged period of time, under a triple-four visa, as we call it, would be not able to access.

CHAIR: And the written test that they would have to do, as anyone else—

Mr Pezzullo : It is the same test.

CHAIR: Would I be right in assuming that an English-speaking, educated resident from across the ditch would probably find it easier than most to—I mean, that is a generalisation.

Mr Pezzullo : They certainly should be well versed in both the language and any issues around civics, because we of course have very similar parliamentary systems. But I might defer to Mr Williams and Ms Dacey otherwise.

Mr Williams : The pass rate for the test is around 97 per cent for all applicants from all countries. So, yes: a normally educated, articulate person should be able to pass the test. And if there are difficulties there is some assistance that people are eligible for, to help them.

CHAIR: And they would easily answer the question on who did the underarm bowling!

Mr Williams : I am sure they would, although it is not in the test!

Senator BILYK: While we are on visas, I might just move onto visas, if we still have the right people at the table. With regard to 457 visas, what is the current average time taken to process a 457?

Mr Pezzullo : I might defer to Mr Williams, but I might also seek assistance from Mr Wilden, if he is still in the building. Mr Wilden owns the policy and the regulation side, and processing time I think falls to Mr Williams's group.

Ms Dacey : Senators, I have just had a look, and I do not have any stats on processing times for you. I will keep looking to make sure it is not hiding somewhere else, if you want to continue with your questioning.

Senator BILYK: Okay, and perhaps you could take on notice the average in 2014-15, 2013-14, 2012-13 and 2011-12. I am sure you do not have that with you, so if you could take it on notice it would be appreciated. Now, it was reported on 28 January that the then employment minister, Eric Abetz, signed a letter supporting a party donor's application for a 457 visa for a family friend, despite that friend being involved in an immigration scam in the past. The question is, was Sam McGuid given special treatment after donating $44,650 to the Liberal Party?

Mr Pezzullo : I can answer as a general matter that no-one is given special treatment for anything, irrespective of how much they donate money to political parties. I will give you that as a general answer. In terms of the specifics, I am aware of the media report that the senator refers to. I am not prepared to canvass in any detail, just from a privacy point of view, the visa application itself, unless colleagues at the table have material that has been otherwise stated publicly or used in proceedings. But in terms of Senator Abetz's support for this gentleman, I really have no comment, other than to say that a donation to a political party would have no bearing at all. In fact, I would be surprised if we even knew about any such donation, and it certainly would not contaminate our decision making whatsoever.

Senator BILYK: What about the fact that they have been involved in an immigration scam in the past?

Mr Pezzullo : If they have been involved in fraud, then that does go to our decision making processes, and if officers at the table can speak in broad terms, without necessarily prejudicing any proceedings that might be on foot or infringing this gentleman's privacy beyond what is absolutely necessary, I will certainly allow an answer to be forthcoming.

Mr Williams : On the criteria for the visa, while support from third parties is useful, it is not determinative of the outcome. So, it would have been taken into account but probably would not have had a particular impact or bearing on the assessment. The main thing to focus on is whether the person is at the right skill level and has the right qualifications for the job, and that is what was focused on in this case.

Senator BILYK: What if they are of good character?

Mr Williams : The character provision is quite a technical provision that goes to whether or not they have associations with criminal groups or have a criminal record. That would only come into play if that was the case.

Senator BILYK: So, being involved in an immigration scam—

Mr Williams : Also, if there is evidence of fraud then there is a general power to refuse an application on the basis that some of the material provided in that application was fraudulent. So, that power does exist and is exercised for this visa category.

Senator BILYK: I might have some more questions to put on notice with regard to that or Senator Carr might too. While we are on 457s et cetera, I am told the department wrote to the law firm Maurice Blackburn and to the Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees' Union on December 2015 about persons on student visas who have been underpaid by employers, including 7-Eleven and Australia Post contractors. I understand the letter says the department:

… will not cancel visas for breach of work conditions where:

the Panel advises the Department that they have determined the worker has a claim for underpayment and has cooperated with their investigations;

there is no other basis for visa cancellation;

and the visa holder provides a commitment to comply with visa conditions in the future.

Are you able to confirm that you have indeed written to Maurice Blackburn and the union in these terms?

Mr Pezzullo : I will ask Mr Williams to respond. At our last meeting in October, the substantive deputy secretary, Mr Manthorpe, outlined the likely position that we were going to take. We were obviously in discussions with both the company and the review panel that has been put in place, chaired by Professor Fels, who is looking at, on behalf of the company, the detail of these underpayments and related matters. The correspondence that you have described sounds quite accurate and certainly relates to a follow-up by Mr Manthorpe on the position he articulated last October. I might ask Mr Williams to answer.

Mr Williams : I might have some further material in another folder. Again, that does sound broadly accurate. We have written to stakeholders involved with that case in order to confirm that where visa holders come forward and have information material to the inquiry they would not jeopardise their visa status in order to be able to facilitate cooperation.

Senator BILYK: Can you confirm then that international students who come forward, as you said, with these complaints will not be deported for breaching their visa conditions?

Mr Williams : We can, provided they are cooperating with the inquiry and they have made suitable arrangements for their further stay in Australia. There have been about 12 cases, I understand, where we have facilitated such a further stay.

Senator BILYK: You pre-empted my next question. I was going to say how many students have come forward?

Mr Williams : There are 12.

Senator BILYK: You think about 12?

Mr Williams : That is right. There needs to be good faith on all sides, and we have agreed that we will take that approach.

Senator BILYK: So none of them have been deported?

Mr Williams : No.

Senator BILYK: In the letter that I mentioned the panel—what panel is that? Do you want me to read it again?

Mr Pezzullo : Yes, please.

Senator BILYK: The department:

will not cancel visas for breach of work conditions where: the Panel advises the Department that they have determined the worker has a claim for underpayment and has cooperated with their investigations

Would that be Mr Fels's panel?

Mr Williams : Can I confirm on notice if I get it wrong? I do believe that is the panel chaired by Dr Fels.

Mr Pezzullo : We can improve on that. Ms Dunn is at the table and she can answer directly.

Ms Dunn : That is the staff-claims panel headed up by Allan Fels, which we would refer to as the 7-Eleven panel. The advice was provided to Maurice Blackburn on 11 December 2015.

Senator BILYK: Was that also provided to the Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees' Union on that date? Are you able to confirm?

Ms Dunn : Yes, it was.

Senator BILYK: On 11 December 2015?

Ms Dunn : That is right.

Senator BILYK: That is all I have with regard to 7-Eleven. I might jump to the Auditor-General report if I can.

Mr Pezzullo : Sorry, which one?

Senator BILYK: Managing compliance with visa conditions.

Mr Pezzullo : That is a combination of departmental officers and ABF officers.

Senator BILYK: I note that the Auditor-General found that while the department had a good idea of how many people overstayed their visas it did not have comprehensive information about the extent of visa holders' non-compliance with visa conditions. Can you explain how the Auditor-General reached this conclusion?

Mr Pezzullo : I think Deputy Commissioner Outram and the chief operating officer can probably speak to what the Auditor-General found in his report. Perhaps Mr Allen?

Mr Allen : Would you mind repeating the question for me, please?

Senator BILYK: Sure. I note the Auditor-General found that while the department had a good idea of how many people overstayed their visas—they had a good idea about how many—they did not have comprehensive information about the extent of visa-holders' noncompliance with visa conditions. So are you able to explain to me how the Auditor-General reached this conclusion?

Mr Allen : I can only answer by saying that obviously they had a look at the evidence that they collected through the course of the audit and came to that conclusion. I am afraid I cannot describe the mindset of the audit team which would have led them to that conclusion.

Dr Charker : I can possibly provide a little more information on the methodology of the process.

Senator BILYK: Thank you.

Dr Charker : The ANAO undertook quite extensive reviews of our existing policies and procedures. They also undertook visits to various departmental state offices and provided us with their preliminary copy of their audit report, which is standard practice. Obviously the department then had an opportunity to provide comment to their recommendations in that report. In that sense it was a standard audit procedure combined, essentially, with some work reviewing existing protocols and documents and also talking with relevant staff and personnel who clearly have knowledge of the particular issues that they were looking to investigate in this particular audit.

Senator BILYK: Has the department got plans or a strategy to address the fact that although you have a good idea how many people overstayed their visa you do not have that comprehensive information?

Mr Pezzullo : I might take that question initially on behalf of both myself and the commissioner. It is one of the critical planks in our reform program. It was one of the critical drivers behind the government's intention—indeed, stated objective—to bring more rigour, more enforcement capability and higher professional standards to the enforcement side of what had been traditionally a public service department. Your colleague Senator Carr is not here. I would really appreciate the opportunity to give this answer in his presence, but you might pass on my regards to him. One of the reasons we have introduced a uniformed element to ensure visa compliance is, effectively, for this reason. The audit report points to the problem. We have—and I will talk in terms of current volume—at any one time approximately two million people in Australia who are non-citizens with lawful permission. They might be here for a week for a conference. They might be here, as those New Zealanders that we talked about earlier, with rights to come and go. Within that group—that stock, if I can use that term—of two million people, we well know, because of our border entry and exit data, that there are approximately 60,000 people. So it is a relatively small fraction of two million, but in absolute terms it is a number that the government is determined to get down. We have about 60,000 people who have some degree of unlawful status. This number has been growing steadily over many years, over many terms of parliament and across governments of both political persuasions.

To ask an administrative department without law enforcement powers, without all of the enforcement capabilities that a police mentality and approach brings to the role of securing our borders, was, frankly, a stretch too far for the former department. One of the benefits that we get from bringing immigration and customs together is that you have a department that excels in the sort of work that Mr Williams and others spoke about earlier—administrative decision-making and technical competence in relation to the application of laws in, if I can say it in these terms, an administrative setting. Then you have colleagues who are uniformed, represented this evening by the Deputy Commissioner for Operations, Michael Outram, who is a former serving police officer, who then bring a different approach—you asked about our future strategy—that says, 'Okay, in terms of an enforcement strategy, what are we going to do to tackle serious noncompliance?'

Sixty thousand, which is the group at any one time—some people regularise, so they come in and say: 'Look, I've overstayed my visa. I'm sorry. Either extend it or send me home'. With other people, the clock ticks over; they go into unlawful status. That stock is roughly around 60,000, but regrettably growing just with population volume.

We are determined, the commissioner and I, under the direction of the minister, to get that number down. Our strategies are several-fold, and I will ask the deputy commissioner to speak in more detail. At the higher end of risk—that is to say, persons who have overstayed; they have essentially gone to ground, as it were—are potentially dangerous, violent criminals who are, for instance, associating with gangs. We know they have come because they have had a border entry, and we also know they have not left. The highest priority that the deputy commissioner will no doubt speak to is forming, for want of a better phrase, 'marshal teams' to work with federal, state and territory law enforcement to ascertain their whereabouts and particularly, if they are rolling with the most violent and dangerous gangs in our country, to use the full suite of law enforcement powers that we have to detect, to isolate and to deal with those people by application of the Migration Act. Essentially: 'You're unlawful; we can deport you. Off you go.'

Senator BILYK: How many people do you think are involved in that?

Mr Pezzullo : The risk work that the ANAO referred to in its report that you have quoted this evening goes to that issue. I do not know if the deputy commissioner has a definitive view of the numbers. There would be a small but, to us, unacceptable number of people in that category—and some of them have been here for years. So in terms of historical comparisons across parliaments and across governments of all persuasions—

Senator BILYK: Are we talking in the thousands or are we talking in the hundreds?

Mr Pezzullo : I will ask the deputy commissioner to speak to that point.

Mr Outram : It is hard to put a definitive number on it. One of the reasons we are establishing an intelligence capability within the department is so that we can address those sorts of questions. Just to follow on from the secretary's points, we are talking about a continuum here. We have field compliance teams. Their focus is on achieving compliance, so they are still dealing with employers, labour hire intermediaries and migration agents to make sure we get good compliance outcomes.

If you look at the visa entitlement verification online system, for example, this is so that employers can check the status of their employees' visas, as can visa holders check their visas, to ensure they are compliant. For example, the number of registrations on VEVO as of 30 June last year was 78,000, compared with 72,000 the year before. That indicates that the level of compliance through that online system is improving; therefore, what we have to do is focus our very finite field compliance teams in the areas where they are going to achieve the best effect with their enforcement effort.

You may well have heard of Task Force Cadena. We established Task Force Cadena in June 2015—

Senator BILYK: Yes, I will come to Cadena a bit later.

Mr Outram : as a whole-of-government effort to deal with the organised and orchestrated migration fraud, exploitation of workers through the visa program et cetera through enforcement effort linking in with our key partners. Then, moving up the continuum even further, we are finding evidence of organised crime involvement in exploitation of the visa system. In that space we are working with the AFP, the Australian Crime Commission and others on more high-end investigative action. So there is a continuum, moving all the way from encouraging voluntary compliance right through to high-end enforcement action.

Mr Pezzullo : And if I can stress—I am sorry, Senator.

Senator BILYK: Sorry, I just need to clarify something, Mr Pezzullo, if I can. You have the field compliance teams. What was the next step?

Mr Outram : We have field compliance teams, and then we have what we call immigration and Customs enforcement teams—that is the next up—and then we have our serious and organised crime branch, and that really covers the continuum. All of those teams work closely with each other—they are supported by our intelligence division within the department—and they all work very closely with partners across not just the law enforcement spectrum in Australia and overseas, but also with a whole range of other government partners like ASIC, ATO and others.

Senator BILYK: I understood from the Auditor-General's report that it appears there has not been an effective risk and intelligence function since 2014, since the department's risk, fraud and integrity division was dissolved.

Mr Pezzullo : No, that is a reading that some people have put on that particular passage. As a matter of fact, there was a small division that did not particularly have what I would describe as an enterprise reach across all of the functions of the department that happened to have that title. It was not connected to high-end law enforcement and classified systems in the way that we would say we are moving to. It did not have the powers, for one thing. For instance, the consolidation of Customs and migration enforcement powers under the auspice of the Australian Border Force you see represented here did not exist at the time. The intelligence function was not at a divisional level. We have created a whole intelligence division, headed up by professional intelligence officers.

Contrary to Senator Carr's earlier point that I vehemently disagreed with and which I do whenever he raises it of allegedly having purged officers from the organisation, the very opposite has occurred. We have said that the future involves specialisation. To go to the point about intelligence, which was a small boutique function in that division that you have just named, if you are from an intelligence background and you can demonstrate credentials in the field of intelligence rather than being an immigration generalist you could head up a division, not a sub-branch. If you are an officer who has had a long and distinguished career in immigration without any intelligent specialisation, it will be very hard for you to compete with an intelligent specialist who will come in and build an intelligence system that I would recognise having come from the Department of Defence as what an intelligence system should look like.

We established a division in 2014 that purported to engage in the work of risk, fraud and integrity. It did quite well with limited resources and a limited mandate. Are we now generalising all those functions in the whole enterprise, creating whole divisions around border management investigations—the division that the deputy commissioner just referred to—intelligence, analytics and biometrics? Yes. We have changed quite considerably and, yes, that division was abolished. It has been replaced by something far more significant and far more capable. God bless the workers there. Most of them have stayed on in the new structure. They have much better tools. The workers who performed that function previously are now appreciating the additional support, including financial and other technical support, that they now have.

Senator BILYK: So that division was abolished in 2014.

Mr Pezzullo : It systems were broken out into what I would consider to be proper international best practice.

Senator BILYK: When did the new entity get up and running?

Mr Pezzullo : Intelligence was one of the ones we started on early because it is such a critical function. The whole department merged with Customs on 1 July 2015. These blended are division started to emerge from 1 July 2015. However, we started the reform journey in the area of intelligence up to a year prior to that, anticipating the merger that was known to be coming on 1 July 2015.

I should add that the individual workers are first-rate. The people who worked in that division, from the divisional chief down, were first-rate. Were they supported by high-end intelligent systems, high levels of security clearance and connections to the sort of datasets that they required to do their jobs? At the time, no. So the Auditor-General was correct in that regard. Are they now so supported? Yes. Are the staff who have transitioned into those new roles relishing the additional firepower and capability that they have to assist the ABF with their task? Absolutely, you betcha.

Senator BILYK: Perhaps that is a place where you could have allocated some of the rebranding money.

Mr Pezzullo : Let me talk about the resources that have gone into reform, both under Mr Morrison's leadership when he was the minister and under Mr Dutton since he took over. The reform program that we have is a multi-year reform program that will see a reinvestment and an investment of up to $700 million to re-engineer all of our capabilities. Did it cost us $6 million to rebrand uniforms to give the ABF the esprit de corps and identity that it now has? Yes. Will that result in improved performance in border protection outcomes? Yes. Will the savings to government far outweigh that investment in uniforms and new branding? Yes. Perhaps you were not here for my opening statement this morning.

Senator BILYK: No, I was. I definitely was.

Mr Pezzullo : For my opening statement, as you would well know then, the government gets a return from the efficiencies created by consolidation to the tune of $200 million, and the efficiencies in total amount to some $270 million. When you go through a merger, you have to make decisions about dress, appearance, uniform, insignia—yes. On the surface, it looks like a lot of money, but the consolidated budget is also $1.5 billion.

Mr Outram : The other thing that I might just add, if I could—

Senator BILYK: Yes, please.

Mr Outram : is that for the model itself, apart from the intelligence, previously the field compliance teams moved across to the Australian Border Force on 1 July, as the secretary has said. Before that, it was very much a regional tasking and regional-focused first teams. So we sort of followed the harvest trail, and those sorts of things. What we are now doing—and people sort of shy away from the 'command and control' words, but all they simply mean is that the tasking and the coordination is now centralised on a national level so that we can actually start to point our resources at the issues and the threats that we, nationally, think are causing the most harm or represent the biggest danger for us. So it is not just the intelligence branch level; it is also the whole command and control model that is shifting.

Senator BILYK: Just going back to the 60,000 unlawful visa overstayers, did I get a number on how many people might be involved in serious crimes?

Mr Outram : No. It is very difficult to say how many might be involved in serious crime.

Senator BILYK: Hundreds? Thousands? I cannot go any higher than thousands.

Mr Outram : I would be hesitant to put a number on it, but we would be talking a fairly large number. What we have done—

Senator BILYK: Sixty thousand is a large number. But are we talking 5,000 or—you must have some idea.

Mr Outram : Without having a metric to put in, what I would say is that we do frequently find people who are here on visas involved in criminal activity. Some of that criminal activity is serious and organised criminal activity. We have done a lot of work with the Australian Crime Commission. Of course they preside over the bulk of the nation's criminal intelligence in relation to serious and organised crime. We do a lot of work with the Australian Crime Commission in relation to visa holders. But I would not want to put a number on how many serious and organised criminals are in Australia with visas at any given time. Of course a lot of people come here from other countries with visas who are involved in serious and organised crime. We rely on intelligence from other organisations to let us know that when people are coming so we can do something about their movement through the border. But this is why it requires a whole-of-government effort in relation to criminal intelligence and why we need a big criminal intelligence function to link into those other organisations.

Mr Pezzullo : Lest there be any mistaken impression left, in our experience the vast majority of people who have overstayed have overstayed for what you might describe as incidental reasons—that is to say they are enjoying their backpacking, they are enjoying being here—

Senator BILYK: Some must be doing a lot of backpacking, because there were 15,550 people who overstayed their visas between five and 15 years.

Mr Pezzullo : Well, I was going to go on before you made that point. Some people fall in love, some people get different sorts of jobs that were different from the ones that they were authorised to get—there are all sorts of reasons why people overstay. I would not want you to have the impression that there are 60,000 violent criminals running around. In fact that—

Senator BILYK: That is what I was trying to find out.

Mr Pezzullo : No. Indeed.

Senator BILYK: I did not presume there were 60,000 violent criminals, but I thought I might be able to get a ballpark figure.

Mr Pezzullo : The vast majority of overstayers, as the deputy commissioner said, and as his other colleagues, such as Mr Williams, would attest to, we try to manage as do, say, our colleagues in tax—which is to come in voluntarily, to regularise your status. There is always a degree of discretion and compassion available in hard-luck stories or where, perhaps, love is involved, and all the rest of it. Generally speaking, you have to leave. But if we have to bridge you to allow you to regularise your affairs, we will. The sort of hardened element that is being mentioned—which of concern because it is mentioned in the Auditor-General's report, as I recall it—is the element that will be targeted through these higher end intelligence-led operations that have more the character of, for want of a better phrase, policing. That is what the ABF is now doing. The Auditor-General himself recognises in his report that the significant changes brought about by the government's decision to merge Immigration and Customs mean that, over time, this matter will have to be looked at again because it is going to be a completely different approach with new tools and new capabilities that will be employed in this area.

Senator BILYK: With the 15,550 I mentioned that have stayed between five and 15 years, are we actually cracking down on them? Are the uniforms doing anything about them?

Mr Pezzullo : Yes. I mentioned earlier in my answer that we are going to focus on those who also show up in serious and organised crime indices. The focus there is on risk. If you are an overstayer, yes, we want to regularise you, but, if you are involved in crime, and particularly violent crime, we want to deal with you, take you out and deport you. Whether you have overstayed by five years, 10 years or one day, if you fit that risk category, these guys will be coming after you. If, however, you have been here and you have overstayed five or 10 years but you are, shall we say, living quietly in the community—you might even be embarrassed by the fact that you broke contact with Immigration, as it then was, 10 or 15 years ago—we certainly would welcome an opportunity to have a discussion with you, and it would be a different sort of discussion from the discussion that violent criminals would have with us.

Senator BILYK: According to my notes, 17,370 cases were reported to have stayed 15 years or more. If I understand you correctly, unless they are a risk, they are not a priority to be sorted out.

Mr Pezzullo : You have got to prioritise your efforts in life. We will always prioritise, with finite investigative—

Senator BILYK: The department is going to be overwhelmed, isn't it, if it has all these people contacting it?

Mr Pezzullo : You would be surprised—and this comes up in the people-smuggling space. When there is a different aura, when there is a different tone, when there is a different approach to how you are going about business, you would be surprised how you can modify people's behaviours in different sorts of ways just by your standing. We are finding that people will want to engage with us in a manner where they clearly recognise that the people that they are dealing with are law enforcement officers and they are respectful of that, and that is a good thing—we always encourage respectful engagement with law enforcement. The gang members take a different attitude, so they are dealt with differently. But if a person has been here for over 15 years—and the Auditor-General's data on that, I think, is pretty clear; I think you just put some of those figures down before the committee yourself—then this problem goes back to the approaches taken over many years. If they have not been regularised before now, it is not the creation of the Border Force or the disestablishment of a risk division that created that state of affairs, by logic. There has been an attitude which previous governments of both persuasions have taken, that the department was essentially an administrative beast. That approach was changed under this government, to this effect: the department will be both administrative in character and law enforcement in character. Hence you see the blended leadership sitting at the table.

Senator BILYK: I understand that. It is just amazing that there are 60,000 or 62,000 people who have overstayed their visas.

Mr Pezzullo : That number has been plateaued for quite some years.

Senator BILYK: What is happening?

Mr Pezzullo : That number has been plateaued for a long, long time. As I said, if we go after the dangerous, violent criminals, you might not see a big drop in the numbers, but, equally, if you work from the bottom, with those who are not violent—they are compliant; they want to comply—then you also might see a reduction in those numbers, through more voluntary nudges and approaches that you might take which are more in the nature of nudging people into voluntary compliance. Our preference is to deal with people quietly in a positive, collaborative fashion, but we also recognise that there are some people who are going to try to avoid our scrutiny, and we will go after them. We will go after them in the way that law enforcement goes after violent criminals.

Senator BILYK: I think we are sort of going round in circles a bit. I am a bit concerned that, if everyone thinks you are going to be nice, you have got the potential of about 32,000 people coming knocking on your door as overstayers. I am not sure how the department might handle that.

Mr Pezzullo : Given the reputation and the discussion around the Border Force that has already emerged, I think there is little doubt that serious criminals will think that they are going to be nice.

Senator BILYK: I am not talking about the serious criminals. I am talking about the 'lawful unlawful' overstayers—those that are behaving themselves but are still there.

Mr Pezzullo : They can come and talk to one of our friendly departmental or ABF officers, and we will sort out their affairs.

Senator BILYK: Mr Allen, I think it was, mentioned Taskforce Cadena. In the past three months this task force has undertaken five compliance operations, detaining 60 unlawful noncitizens and arresting three persons for breach of the Migration Act. This is what was said by the department at the last estimates. The task force is currently assessing 31 allegations of organised labour exploitation and has developed a target list of 65 entities, a priority cohort of which are 13 labour-hire companies. Are you able to give us an update on the action arising from those investigations since last estimates?

Mr Allen : I can give you an update to the figures provided at the previous estimates. Taskforce Cadena is a continuing activity and it is producing some strong results for the government. To date, there have been 10 section 251 warrants, which are the power of entry and search under the Migration Act, executed by the ABF and also 11 section 3E warrants, which are search warrants under the Crimes Act, executed by the Australian Federal Police with ABF involvement in the operation. To date, the activity has resulted in a total of 61 unlawful noncitizens being detained. The Fair Work Ombudsman has also been involved in all joint operations since the establishment of the task force in July 2015. The FWO provide fair work inspectors to the task force's operational activities. They help to identify and action any potential contraventions of the Fair Work Act.

The task force related operations have been undertaken across multiple jurisdictions, including Queensland, Victoria, New South Wales and Western Australia. The task force targets industries, including hospitality, education, agriculture, poultry and beauty services. Targeting for Cadena is not, however, limited by industry or immigration status.

There are a range of particular operations which has been undertaken which have achieved these results. The activity is ongoing. Part of the operations of the task force is to collate intelligence about these activities. To date, the task force has received around 124 allegations for assessment. From those allegations, 61 have been deemed to meet the task force thresholds of organised and significant illegal work, visa fraud and exploitation of foreign workers. The task force has referred a number of these allegations to other business areas within the portfolio or to the Fair Work Ombudsman for action.

Of the 61 allegations which have been assessed as meeting the thresholds, 18 have been referred to the Fair Work Ombudsman. As of 15 January 2016, the task force has developed 22 intelligence products for dissemination to the Fair Work Ombudsman for endorsement or to our regional commands for operational planning. That is to our regional commands within the ABF strategic border command for further activity by our field compliance teams.

Mr Outram : I will add to that the task force continues to collaborate with a whole range of other agencies, including the Australian Federal Police, the Australian Crime Commission, the Australian Securities and Investments Commission, the Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre, the Australian Taxation Office and local law enforcement agencies. We are currently working with the ATO, for example, to progress prescribing the task force within the Taxation Administration Act as a prescribed task force to facilitate the sharing of information between our two agencies. Cadena is already starting to get some rubber on the road. Prosecutions will take time, of course, as the assistant commissioner said. There have been a number of activities, warrants and other things, and there is a lot of intelligence being collected with a particular focus on entities like rogue labour-hire intermediaries and migration agents. Building that national picture, informing the targeting effort, pulling a whole range of agencies together from those compliance activities that the FWO routinely undertake all the way through to AFP investigations and warrants—task force Cadena is actually making a big difference.

Senator BILYK: Thank you. Mr Allen, if I heard you correctly, you said there had been 61 people detained. Is that correct?

Mr Allen : That is correct.

Senator BILYK: At the last estimates there had been 60 detained. Is that an extra 61 or an extra one since the last estimates?

Mr Allen : I am going to have to take that on notice and check to make sure that I am giving you the correct update number since the last estimates.

Senator BILYK: Okay, thanks. Has the task force undertaken any further compliance operations since the previous estimates?

Mr Allen : In terms of the dates of activity, the last estimates were in November?

Senator BILYK: October.

Mr Allen : Since then, there have been a number of additional activities which I understand are ongoing in terms of activities, including field compliance visits, joint activities with the Fair Work Ombudsman and that sort of activity.

Senator BILYK: Are you able to give us any update on those?

Mr Outram : I can say there have been operations in relation to karaoke bars and nail salons, for example, since that time. The task force continues to undertake operations in the field. We will identify for you how many operations have been undertaken since the last estimates, but certainly they were since the last estimates.

Senator BILYK: Thanks. That is probably all on Cadena.

I go to the temporary skilled migration income threshold. Are you able to tell me what proportion of all 457 nominations had a base salary of $53,900—you would probably have to take this on notice—in 2013-14, 2014-15 and 2015-16?

Mr Wilden : I will have to take it on notice. The average—and I will also provide this—is up in the $60,000 to $70,000 mark for the average 457, but I will have to confirm the exact number sitting on the minimum.

Senator BILYK: Okay. I think most of my other questions in that area flow on, but I will ask them and you can tell me if you need to take them on notice. What proportion of nominations in each industry had a base salary of $53,900 in 2013-14, 2014-15 and 2015-16?

Mr Wilden : On notice.

Senator BILYK: What proportion of nominations in each state and territory had a base salary of $53,900 in 2013-14, 2014-15 and 2015-16?

Mr Wilden : On notice.

Senator BILYK: What proportion of all 457 visa nominations had a base salary of $51,400 in 2012-13?

Mr Wilden : Historically? On notice.

Senator BILYK: What proportion of all 457 visa nominations had a base salary of $49,330 in 2011-12? In announcing the review of the temporary skilled migration income threshold on 23 December 2015, the minister's media release stated:

The TSMIT defines the salary threshold for jobs that can be filled by a 457 visa holder and is designed to protect Australian workers and ensure that visa holders are undertaking skilled employment.

How many Australian workers are being protected if the TSMIT has been on hold for over two years?

Mr Wilden : The TSMIT itself, set as it is at $53,900 for the last two years, is up towards the median wage, so it is well above minimum wage across just about every industry. That in itself is one of the protections for Australian jobs; the 457 salary element cannot be used to undercut Australian wages.

Senator BILYK: Unless you work at 7-Eleven, Pizza Hut, Myer—any of those.

Mr Wilden : To go to the earlier statements: they are not 457 workers.

Senator BILYK: Okay, fair enough. So you are taking all of them on notice?

Mr Wilden : The detailed ones, yes. They will be on notice.

Senator BILYK: What about working holiday-makers and the impact of backpacker tax? Is that your area too?

Mr Wilden : Yes.

Senator BILYK: Great. There were some questions that related to that published on 30 June 2015. How many working holiday visa applications were lodged in the 2015 calendar year?

Mr Wilden : My program management friends may be able to help with the lodgement numbers.

Mr Williams : Lodged in the 2015-16 calendar years?

Senator BILYK: The 2015 calendar year.

Mr Williams : I do not have it by calendar years. I have 2014-15, which is the last full year.

Senator BILYK: Okay.

Mr Williams : There were 122,410 applications lodged across the two categories that make up—

Senator BILYK: 122,410. Would you have the 2013-14 year?

Mr Williams : I do not have those with me, no.

Senator BILYK: Perhaps you could take that on notice. Is that the last update that you gave me—2014-15?

Mr Williams : I am looking at the figures again. I notice that there are too many to show a comparison between the two halves of the year. That is only half of the year's numbers. I will need to take that on notice unless I can find them in another table. The figures I gave you were for the half-year from 1 July to 31 December 2014. The table I have was showing a comparison—

Senator BILYK: Sorry, July to December?

Mr Williams : That is right. That would be only half of the potential grants for that year.

Senator BILYK: In 2014?

Mr Williams : That is right.

Senator BILYK: You can take it on notice. Perhaps we could get it for the calendar years of 2015, 2014 and 2013, if you are going to take it on notice. Are you able to tell me: has the rate of application changed since 12 May 2015 until now, compared to the same period in the prior year?

Ms Dacey : Since 12 May specifically?

Mr Williams : For 12 May 2015—I cannot. I would need to take that on notice.

Senator BILYK: Have applications increased or decreased, and by what quantity and percentage? If you did not know that last answer, I am presuming you will have to take that one on notice too.

Mr Williams : There is a little bit of variation. They decreased a little bit in the 417 category, which is the working holiday visa, the traditional one. They have increased quite significantly in the work and holiday scheme because a number of new countries have been added to the scheme.

Senator BILYK: Can you give me some figures on notice?

Mr Williams : Will do.

Senator BILYK: Thank you. The July 2015 DIPB report shows working holiday visa applications fell by over 10,000 last year. Any idea why that might have been?

Mr Williams : That is right. That is in a traditional working holiday area. Our view on that would probably be that it is because it is a little bit sensitive to the global economy. If the Australian economy is doing better than economies overseas, for people coming on a holiday this is quite an attractive visa because they can hedge their costs a little bit by knowing that they can work in Australia.

Senator BILYK: Except that applications fell.

Mr Williams : That is right—when the global economy improved after the global crisis. This is our analysis of it, but we probably need to go into it in more detail. Our thinking is that, as the global economy improved, the category became possibly less attractive to people from countries where their economy was in better shape than it had been.

Senator BILYK: Do you want to take that on notice in case there is anything else to go there?

Mr Williams : Yes.

Senator BILYK: The report shows that almost 13,000 fewer WHV visas were granted in 2014-15 compared to—I might put that on notice because I do not think I have actually got the number on the page that I am supposed to be on. I will give you that one on notice anyway without even asking it. How do you anticipate the demand for WHV visas will change as a result of the proposed backpacker tax?

Mr Wilden : It is a little hard to say because the nature of the backpackers is quite varied. If you look at the stock that is onshore at any time and the volumes every year, a lot of working holidaymakers come here and do not work or they work for a very short period of time to supplement. There are obviously those people who are looking to have a second year and have to meet their obligation to work for a period in regional Australia. It is very difficult to model, if you like, a possible implication there when we start to put tax upon that.

Senator BILYK: Where are the WHVs processed?

Mr Williams : They are generally processed in a processing centre in Australia, but some are processed in our overseas posts as well.

Senator BILYK: There is just the one processing centre, in Sydney or somewhere?

Mr Williams : Yes. The 417s are generally processed in Hobart.

Senator BILYK: Really? Well, there you go.

Mr Williams : We have a big visa processing office.

Senator BILYK: They must be doing a great job—that is all I will say—if they are in Hobart!

Mr Williams : They are doing an excellent job. Some of the work and holiday visa categories—the smaller one that is more market specific—tend to be processed overseas closer to where the applicants are. They are often managed carefully because there can be a cap applied, so it is best handled out of the one office in the market concerned or in the country concerned.

Senator BILYK: Are you able to tell me how many full-time-equivalent staff are engaged in this?

Ms Dacey : Sorry, we will have to take that one on notice.

Senator BILYK: Can you also tell me if this has changed at all since 12 May 2015 and, if so, by how many staff members and why?

Ms Dacey : Yes.

Senator BILYK: Thank you. Was the department consulted on the WHV tax changes before their announcement on budget night 2015?

Mr Wilden : I would have to take on notice any consultation process that may have occurred.

Senator BILYK: If you can, if you were consulted, can you also take on notice what the nature of the consultation involved.

Mr Wilden : I shall do so.

Senator BILYK: Did the minister make any representations to the Treasurer in relation to potential impact on demand for WHV or expenditure as a result of this measure?

CHAIR: I am not sure that this witness could answer on representations made to the minister.

Senator BILYK: But the minister is here.

Mr Pezzullo : I think the best course there is to refer that matter to the minister.

Senator Cash: Or refer it to the relevant minister.

Senator BILYK: If so, can we ask them what the nature of the representations was. Has the department undertaken any modelling on demand for WHV visas as a result of this change, and how will the department be monitoring demand?

Mr Wilden : We have not undertaken any modelling as part of the policy change for the new taxation. As I mentioned previously, one of the reasons is that, in the grant of a WHM visa, we do not ask how long you are going to stay or the purpose of your visit other than to experience Australia. So you can work, but you do not have to notify us if you do work, and that is why it is often difficult to get accurate data pre policy change. As to the amount of people who are already here on working holiday-maker visas, whether they are in the workforce and what taxation may apply to them—without going back to the tax office, to the employers et cetera—if you are in Australia and you are able to legally work, the tax office does not necessarily—and you would need to check with them—record the nature of the visa but only that you have work rights. So disaggregating that down to what the current situation is and then trying to model that would be virtually impossible.

Senator BILYK: I just want to be clear on this. You can come in on a working holiday visa, and you can work, but you do not actually have to tell the department if you are working at all?

Mr Wilden : No. That is correct.

Senator BILYK: Are you able to tell me, then, the total expenditure of a working holiday-maker visa holder during their stay? Do we have any data on that?

Mr Wilden : I will take it on notice. I think we have done some surveying, and we might have some figures, but I would have to take that on notice.

Mr Williams : There is a study—it is probably a bit dated now; it is probably six, seven or maybe eight years old—where there was some research done on that.

Senator BILYK: But nothing since?

Mr Williams : I do not believe so.

Senator BILYK: Do we know anything about the amount earned by a WHV holder during their stay?

Mr Wilden : No.

Senator BILYK: Because they do not have to tell you if they work?

Mr Wilden : Correct.

Mr Williams : If I recall correctly, that study indicated that a lot of the earnings were turned over whilst they were in Australia.

Senator BILYK: Are we able to know—and I am presuming we are not, if they do not have to tell you that they have worked—the number of jobs held by working holiday-maker visa holders?

Mr Wilden : We would have some data, which I will take on notice, for those who apply for a second working holiday, because they actually have to show evidence of what they did in their first year. But that is a small cohort of the total group.

Mr Williams : Also, it will be skewed, because you are only eligible if you are working in certain industries, so we will not have the full gamut of industries in which working holiday-makers are engaged.

Senator BILYK: But you can get us what you have?

Mr Williams : We can give you all that we have.

Senator BILYK: Thank you. That is all on WHVs. Just one quick question about tourist visa applications: can you outline the plan for the rollout of Mandarin-language visa applications and online visa applications across all categories, please.

Mr Williams : Yes, I can. I have a briefing paper here.

Ms Dacey : A series of initiatives or pilots were announced as part of the north Australia white paper, including online lodgement of Mandarin. What was the other one you mentioned, Senator?

Senator BILYK: Online visa applications across all categories.

Ms Dacey : We are developing business processes and IT applications to support these pilots, rolling out at various times through this calendar year, with the goal to be full online lodgement for individuals from China by December this year.

Senator BILYK: So it should all be sorted by the end of the year?

Ms Dacey : Absolutely, Senator.

Senator BILYK: How are we going so far?

Mr Williams : As far as online lodgement is concerned, we are down to three, admittedly, big markets: China, India and Indonesia. Most of the rest of the world is now online for visa application. If they want to, we still offer a paper channel for quite a few, because quite a lot of people prefer to come into our service delivery partner arrangements in 95 different places around the world, and that is often a paper supported process. Ultimately, and actually in a similar time frame, that will also be supported online. So we are moving into China, India and Indonesia. They just happen to be the biggest markets, particularly China and India, and we were cautious in making sure that the business process and systems and all those things were able to cope. All three of those places have some complicated industry dynamics that we want to make sure we get right. By the end of this year, early 2017, we will have it sorted out.

Senator BILYK: With regard to family visas, can you tell me how many partner visas were on hand as at 30 December 2015?

Ms Dacey : Lodged partner visas: 21,008.

Senator BILYK: Would you know the figure for 31 December in 2013 and 2014?

Ms Dacey : I am sorry, we will have to get those to you.

Senator BILYK: On notice, thanks.

Mr Williams : The 21,008 are the total number lodged by 31 December in that program year. I have a report on the on-hand number. I will keep looking for that.

Mr Pezzullo : Senator, are you interested in how many visas had been granted as at that date?

Senator BILYK: On hand, yes.

Mr Pezzullo : When you say 'on hand', you mean granted?

Senator BILYK: Granted, yes.

Ms Dacey : The granted number is 21,152.

Mr Williams : That is in the first six months of the program year.

Senator BILYK: What time frame is that?

Ms Dacey : 1 July to 31 December 2015.

Senator BILYK: It was 21,152, even though only 21,008 were lodged?

Ms Dacey : Yes, there would be a bit of a pipeline.

Mr Pezzullo : So lodged are yet to be assessed.

Senator BILYK: So more were granted than were lodged?

Mr Williams : That is right.

Mr Pezzullo : Lodged are on hand for review and assessment. So, by the time you get to 30 June this year, there will be what is called a full program year and we will be able to give you data after 1 July as to how many visas were actually granted. The officers are saying that, as at the midpoint of the financial year—that is to say 31 December—just a tad over 21,000 had been granted.

Ms Dacey : Correct.

Senator BILYK: Are you able to provide the total amount of money paid for visa applications currently on hand?

Mr Williams : We do have the total amount, as I understand it, under the visa program. The chief financial officer might have the number. I thought it was $1.8 billion.

Mr Pezzullo : Senator, are you talking about all visa categories?

Senator BILYK: Yes.

Mr Pezzullo : I am sure the chief financial officer—who lives for this moment!—will be able to address your question.

Senator BILYK: Give me the total amount across all categories, and then can you give me the partner visa?

Mr Groves : The amount collected in total in 2014-15 for visa application charges was $1.818 billion.

Senator BILYK: Billion?

Mr Groves : Yes.

Senator BILYK: Are you able to tell me for the partner visas?

Mr Groves : I do not have the detail broken up by category, I am afraid.

Senator BILYK: That is alright. Could you take that on notice?

Mr Groves : Yes.

Senator BILYK: Is the number of applications growing over time?

Mr Williams : In the partner visa?

Senator BILYK: Yes.

Mr Williams : To give you an idea, in 2013-14 the number of partner applications lodged for the full year was 59,252. In 2014-15, the subsequent year, it was 55,814. So there was a minor reduction between one year and the next. As we previously advised, the first six months of this program year it was 21,008. If you extrapolate that across the full year, it looks like it will again probably come in a bit lower.

Senator BILYK: Around 40 give or take?

Mr Pezzullo : The mid 40s.

Mr Williams : So it is declining a little bit.

Senator BILYK: Peter McDonald, a member of the Ministerial Advisory Council on Skilled Migration and noted demographer, questions the policy merit of allocating a specific target of partner visas each year and recommended a demand driven system. What effect would this have on the number of partner migrant arrivals?

Mr Wilden : Peter McDonald was a former member of the Migration Advisory Council. He was a member of the last council. He is not currently a member of this council. As has traditionally been the case, the current partner program has a planning level. It goes between one-third and two-thirds—one-third for family, which includes the partner, and two-thirds for the skilled component. There is an enormous amount of modelling on the costs and benefits of the program itself that go into the budget process.

I am aware of Professor McDonald's views on demand driven or capped. I guess in some ways it is an observation. Given the nature of the pathways people have to come to Australia—they may be onshore when they lodge et cetera—if they then are on a bridging visa and have work rights, they are participating, paying taxes et cetera. Again, it very hard to say that there is a quantum benefit financially. Certainly, socially, people have opportunities to be together through other visas before they get granted their partner visa. As such, whether it is a planning level or it is demand driven, it would be very hard to get a modelling that says there is a specific financial or social benefit.

Senator BILYK: So the department has not previously considered a demand driven system?

Mr Wilden : As with many policy ideas, I am sure it has come up at some point in the past. Governments—certainly from living memory—have run a planned migration program which includes the family program—one element of that being partners.

Senator BILYK: What is an acceptable period to wait for a partner application?

Mr Williams : The time it is generally taking is around 13 months at the moment. It is partly a factor of required places and demand for the category.

Mr Wilden : I would add that, regardless of when you lodge and when your visa may be granted, it does not mean that you are not together, because applications are lodged offshore with people offshore and they are lodged onshore. Again, there are bridging visas and other options. So it is not that people would be separated by the length of the processing time.

Senator BILYK: They would be if they lodged offshore, though, if one was in Australia and one was offshore?

Mr Wilden : If they choose to lodge and be in different countries then, yes, they would be separated.

Senator BILYK: Is it possible to get a breakdown of how many people lodge offshore and onshore?

Mr Williams : Yes, we can give you that breakdown. If they do lodge offshore, there are options for visitor visas and other things. We are quite flexible on those arrangements where we can be. So people can come and stay on a visitor visa and then return when their visa—

Senator BILYK: For a short period of time.

Mr Williams : That is right.

Senator BILYK: While their waiting for their application?

Mr Williams : That is right.

Senator BILYK: What is the cost these days for a partner application?

Ms Dacey : There is a couple of different categories. Partner (permanent) is $6,865, which is one fee for a combined temporary and permanent visa allocation; Partner (temporary) is nil fee; and Partner (permanent) 801, which is different from the other one, is the same fee—$6,865.

Senator BILYK: What is a Partner (temporary)?

Ms Dacey : It is category 8.20. It is under 'family', and it is until a decision is made on the corresponding subclass 801. So it is linked to one of those other two that I talked to you about.

Mr Williams : The process is a two-stage process for most partner cases. You apply for a temporary visa to start with and you are granted a permanent visa later, after you have had the chance to confirm that the relationship is ongoing. There is one fee that covers the whole process.

Senator BILYK: To be clear, you have got someone living in Australia and they have got a partner offshore and that partner can apply for a Partner (temporary) visa. Is that correct?

Mr Williams : That is correct.

Senator BILYK: And there is no cost?

Mr Williams : I think the cost is charged up front. So it is just that, nominally, one of them does not have a charge attached. The other one does. The charge would need to be paid at the time of initial application. I will confirm if I am wrong, but I believe that to be the case.

Ms Dacey : I think that is correct.

Senator BILYK: How much is that charge?

Ms Dacey : It is $6,865.

Senator BILYK: Then if your visa is granted you can come to Australia and wait for the permanent—

Mr Williams : That is right. It is two years, I believe.

Senator BILYK: Can people use that temporary visa to prove their relationship once they are in Australia?

Mr Williams : They can. That means that the department has accepted that their relationship exists or that there is evidence of that. The person is given a visa that allows them to come and stay, work, travel in and out of the country. Then after a period of time we go through a process to confirm that the relationship is still ongoing, and a permanent visa is granted that allows them to stay indefinitely.

Senator BILYK: In proving that relationship, is that the 18-month rule or the 12-month rule? Or is it something different to that?

Mr Williams : That is for de facto relationships and things like that, to get a sense of how long has this relationship been in place, so a period of time is helpful. There might be other evidence—shared expenses, shared savings, children—

Senator BILYK: Rental, whatever.

Mr Williams : Yes. It is different in every case.

Senator BILYK: I am happy to put the rest of my questions on notice, if everyone is happy with that.

CHAIR: I have one question before quarter past, if you are finished.

Senator BILYK: I am happy to put the rest on notice. I am sure the minister is happy with that.

CHAIR: Not has happy as I am!

Senator BILYK: Remember, Chair, that I have done that for you.

CHAIR: I always speak highly of you, Senator Bilyk.

Senator BILYK: I have heard you!

CHAIR: With regard to the tax on the backpacker working visa, I have had a lot of complaints, as I am sure have many of colleagues, that there will be many rural industries—particularly, in my case, in the north—that cannot get Australian workers and cannot get any other sort of workers. I cannot understand the reasoning behind this, and I know it is not your department, but if the backpackers stop coming because they are now paying tax from the first dollar earned, a lot of the crops will not be harvested. I see today that the government has announced an extension of the Seasonal Worker Program. Perhaps this is a question for the minister: is the intent behind that that it will make labour more readily available in those industries that might suffer quite a lot with the tax?

Senator Cash: No, that was not the policy intent. In fact, the policy itself was announced, I believe, on 1 July 2015 and it is now about to commence. Basically, we have received feedback and we are extending it out from horticulture to agriculture and certain selected parts of Australia within the hospitality industry. It is very much an expansion of the aid program for those nations involved. It is a fundamentally different program to the work and holiday. It is also very much guaranteeing labour in critical periods, because it basically becomes that people work, they go home, they come back, they work and they go home. It is ensuring a supply of labour. Again, you have got to test the Australian labour market, et cetera, and you have got to do all of that. It was not done as a response to the backpacker issue. This quite a separate program.

CHAIR: It is just a nice coincidence.

Senator Cash: It is a separate program but one that has obviously been very much welcomed by the sector.

CHAIR: I like the hospitality thing, particularly as it relates to areas that are always in my heart. What is the definition of tropical North Queensland?

Mr Williams : There is a definition, for the purpose of the Northern Australia white paper, that we are working to for that purpose. That has some specific government deliverables attached to it, but there may be other definitions for other contexts. I believe—

CHAIR: It was something promised in the Northern white paper.

Ms Dacey : I am just checking for you. I thought it might have been as simple as postcodes.

CHAIR: Perhaps you better take it on notice so that, if I do not get the right answer, I will not be despondent after being happy at Senator Bilyk's cooperation.

Senator BILYK: Don't tell everybody!

CHAIR: We might call well enough alone. I thank officers from the Department of Immigration and Border Protection. Mr Pezzullo and all your team, thank you very much. Thank you to the Australian Border Force and all the other agencies. For those who did not get a chance to come forward, you will be as happy as I am. Thank you very much, we will see you next time. The committee stands adjourned until nine o'clock tomorrow, when we will deal with the Attorney-General's Department. Thank you to Hansard and the secretariat too.

Committee adjourned at 21 : 16