Title Education and Employment Legislation Committee
25/02/2015
Estimates
EDUCATION AND TRAINING PORTFOLIO
Department of Education and Training
Database Estimates Committees
Date 25-02-2015
Committee Name Education and Employment Legislation Committee
Page 5
Questioner CHAIR
Lines, Sen Susan
Carr, Sen Kim
Ruston, Sen Anne
Rhiannon, Sen Lee
O'Sullivan, Sen Barry
O'Neill, Sen Deb
Responder Birmingham, Sen Simon
Ms Paul
Ms Gleeson
Ms Monkley
Mr Cook
Senator O'NEILL
System Id committees/estimate/58734856-0690-4249-98de-de5d3ce7d191/0002


Education and Employment Legislation Committee - 25/02/2015 - Estimates - EDUCATION AND TRAINING PORTFOLIO - Department of Education and Training

Department of Education and Training

[09:04]

CHAIR: I welcome Senator the Hon. Simon Birmingham—great to have you here, Minister—representing the Minister for Education and Training; the departmental secretary, Ms Lisa Paul; and officers of the Department of Education and Training. Senator Birmingham, do you wish to make an opening statement?

Senator Birmingham: Good morning. Very briefly. Of course, it is a delight to be back at education estimates, which I have not attended for some period of time. As senators would be aware, the changes to ministerial arrangements and some machinery of government changes have changed the nature of the department appearing today, as well as the ministerial representative arrangements. Of course, Minister Christopher Pyne continues as the Minister for Education and Training. The department has absorbed from the Department of Industry issues relating to vocational education and training and skills. I am pleased to have particular responsibility for those matters as the assistant minister, and Senator Scott Ryan continues as the parliamentary secretary with particular responsibilities around universal access, early learning, preschool, chaplaincy, youth, our internal deregulation agenda and infrastructure matters in the portfolio. Senator Ryan will be here at different junctures today to handle his matters of the portfolio and some of the school sections, whilst I will handle the general issues of higher education, which is of course my own portfolio responsibility.

CHAIR: Thank you, Minister. It is fabulous to have you here. Ms Paul, do you wish to make an opening statement?

Ms Paul : No, thank you.

CHAIR: Senator Lines.

Senator LINES: Thank you, Minister, for mentioning child care. Today we have outcome 1, program 1.1 and program 1.4 in child care and I really want to understand from the department what is encompassed in program 1.1 and 1.4.

Ms Paul : Sure. All of the childcare responsibilities have gone to the Department of Social Services. So any questions on Productivity Commission inquiries et cetera will need to be directed to them. But their estimates come after this. So that is good. Support for the childcare system remains with us. We actually do not have too much remaining, but the very important responsibility for preschool. So we keep the responsibility for universal access and that national partnership. We keep responsibility for the early learning languages trial that is happening and which we have spoken about before. We keep the research and anything to do with age 4, basically—so the Australian early development centres, for example. I think that is under 1.1, which is why that is still there. Those are the main things that remain. The way that you could frame it is that anyone under four is with social services and preschool remains our responsibility, because early learning matches well with schooling and so on.

Senator LINES: Except if they are four year olds in the early childhood system?

Ms Paul : Sure. That is the way it has occurred.

Senator LINES: Just to make sure that I have understood, there is nothing at all in relation to early childhood care?

Ms Paul : That is right.

Senator LINES: So out-of-school-hours care; everything now is in the other portfolio?

Ms Paul : That is right. You will find that you will be talking to the same people. The deputy secretary is Jackie Wilson. You know those people but they are now in the Department of Social Services.

Senator LINES: That is very clear. Thank you very much.

CHAIR: Senator Carr.

Senator KIM CARR: I would like to turn to the letter that you sent to me, Ms Paul, on the question of the government advertising campaign.

Ms Paul : Sure.

Senator KIM CARR: I understand that the secretary of the Department Finance forwarded on to you a letter I sent to her dated 9 December. The letter concerned the advertising campaign. Can you confirm a few facts with me before we go to some other issues? Can you inform the committee on what date you received that letter?

Ms Paul : The letter referred from Ms Halton?

Senator KIM CARR: Yes

Ms Paul : It would have been, I think, quite soon after you wrote to her. You wrote on 9 December. I do not have the date in front of me. But, honestly, it would have been a couple of days later or a day later or maybe even on the day. When I would have seen your letter, yes, it would have been in that timeframe.

Senator KIM CARR: What was the date in which you replied to my letter?

Ms Paul : You only received that yesterday and I signed it the day before. I have apologised for that in the first paragraph. Perhaps I can explain. I do apologise for that. There is summer leave et cetera, but there is never any good excuse for a late letter. What happened was that because you had not written to me, we thought that Ian McPhee's letter back to you kind of cover it. I will be absolutely honest with you Senator, because it is not often that you and I write to each other. You did not write to me, but anyway I do not take these things lightly. It was when I saw your media release saying that I hadn't responded I thought, 'Okay, so a response is obviously expected.' That is when we started to develop it. I cannot offer any comfort except for an apology and to say that I do note that most of this information was also reflected in Ian McPhee's letter. Nonetheless, there is no excuse for a late correspondence and I do apologise.

Senator KIM CARR: Can we deal then with the substance of the letter itself. Obviously I was surprised it did take so long.

Ms Paul : Absolutely right. I am sure that if it had been a slightly clearer trail by way of you writing to me directly—

Senator KIM CARR: Okay. That is—

CHAIR: Sorry, Senator Carr. Senator Ruston?

Senator RUSTON: Would it be possible for us all to have a copy of this letter?

CHAIR: Are you asking for the letter to the table?

Senator RUSTON: It is just that Senator Carr is questioning Ms Paul about a letter and I am afraid that I do not know what it is.

CHAIR: Senator Carr, I think those letters from you and Senator Xenophon were tabled in finance and public admin yesterday, so they are public.

Senator KIM CARR: I am not the slightest bit—

CHAIR: Excuse me, Senator Carr, I am talking. Would it be possible for senators of this committee to actually be able to refer to that correspondence that you are referring to?

Senator KIM CARR: I do not mind in the slightest. If you have copies already tabled, why would I be concerned?

CHAIR: Thank you, so much.

Senator Birmingham: Sorry, is Senator Carr going to table the letter?

CHAIR: I took it to mean Senator Carr you would be able to.

Senator KIM CARR: I thought you had said that they had already been tabled.

CHAIR: In finance and public admin yesterday. Given the timing issues, it might be quicker if the secretariat could just simply photocopy it.

Senator KIM CARR: I require the letters, too, with my questions. They are already tabled—

CHAIR: Senator Carr. Can you go to another area of questioning until the secretariat can get the letters?

Senator KIM CARR: No, I want to pursue this area of questioning.

CHAIR: I am happy for you to pursue this area, Senator Carr, but not until senators of this committee can actually ascertain and have a look at the documentation to which you are referring. Now, you can table it or the secretariat can find that off of the finance and public admin website. So could you go to another line of questioning? We will absolutely come back to this questioning once that document has been tabled.

Ms Paul : Do you want me to have mine copied?

CHAIR: Thank you so much.

Ms Paul : Obviously if it is not in front of me, Senator, I might have to come back to it.

Senator KIM CARR: What was the date when the department decided to commission market research on the level of awareness and understanding of the higher education system?

Ms Paul : I'll get our communications person for you.

Senator Birmingham: Chair, if I can just indicate that obviously Ms Paul is happy to deal with questions in relation to the letter and any of the factual matters, and so on, early on. But, depending on how far we go into this, this may become matters best explored in the higher education section.

Senator KIM CARR: They might be, Minister, but this is cross portfolio and I am asking questions here quite deliberately as cross portfolio questions. Thank you for your advice.

Senator Birmingham: Senator, you can ask the questions. It may be that I need to not take them on notice for a response later but take them on notice for a response when the appropriate officials from the higher education section are here.

Senator KIM CARR: These have always been cross portfolio issues. They are questions of contracts. Questions of government advertising are clearly cross portfolio.

Senator Birmingham: Senator Carr, it is only 9.14 am. Stay cool, please.

Senator KIM CARR: And already you are trying to avoid answering questions.

Senator Birmingham: All I was suggesting, Senator Carr, is that we will go as far as we can at this stage depending on how far into some of the issues we will want—

Senator KIM CARR: That is not what you are suggesting.

CHAIR: Minister! Senator Carr!

Senator Birmingham: Senator Carr, don't start verballing at this time of day, please.

CHAIR: Minister! It is only quarter past nine. Maybe another coffee all around and a deep breath. The letters are arriving. Let us proceed and I am sure that we will stick to cross portfolio matters. Thank you, Senator Carr.

Senator KIM CARR: Can I ask the Secretary, what was the date in which the department decided to commission the market research on the level of awareness and understanding of the higher education system?

Ms Gleeson : The department issued a request for quotes for developmental research on 3 October, 2014.

Senator KIM CARR: I take it a decision was taken to commission research prior to the request for tender being issued.

Ms Paul : Sure. You want the date of that internal decision. We may not have that. That would be an internal decision.

Senator KIM CARR: There will be a date in the department that the decision was taken to commission this report.

Ms Paul : Okay. We will take that on notice.

Senator KIM CARR: Thank you. If we could have that later in the day, I would appreciate it. When was ORIMA Research chosen to conduct this research?

Ms Gleeson : In terms of the work order that the department signed with ORIMA Research, that was signed on 16 October 2014.

Senator KIM CARR: What was the outcome of the research?

Ms Paul : In terms of content?

Senator KIM CARR: Yes.

Ms Paul : This is now getting into the area where I actually think would be quite handy for the higher ed people to be here.

Senator KIM CARR: Can you provide me with a copy of the research report?

Ms Paul : Sure, I will take that on notice.

Senator KIM CARR: When did the department receive that report?

Ms Paul : Sorry, we will have to take it on notice.

CHAIR: After dinner tonight?

Ms Paul : Yes.

Senator KIM CARR: If we can have it before then, because these are questions that go to cross portfolio. I am not particularly interested in getting them in the middle of the night. I would prefer to get them when we ask the questions, but if it cannot be done then as soon as practicable.

Ms Paul : We may be able to dig it up.

Senator KIM CARR: Why was the contract with ORIMA Research varied to pay them an additional $13,481?

Ms Gleeson : Is that the variation? Do you have the date that you are referring to there? Is that the tender date?

Senator KIM CARR: I am working off the AusTender documents, yes.

Ms Gleeson : Is that the 17 December variation?

Senator KIM CARR: I believe that is the one.

Ms Gleeson : The variation was due to the department commissioning additional focus groups.

Senator KIM CARR: How many focus groups were involved?

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

Senator KIM CARR: And where were they conducted?

Ms Gleeson : That part of the research was conducted nationally. Again, I would like to take that on notice.

Senator KIM CARR: When did the department start working out the proposals for the advertising campaign itself?

Ms Paul : Do you mean the beginning of the creative work?

Senator KIM CARR: Yes.

Ms Gleeson : That would have occurred after we signed the contract with the successful tenderer for the creative services provided for the campaign.

Senator KIM CARR: Would you be able to give me a date to that, please?

Ms Gleeson : We issued the RFQ for the campaign creative services on 28 October.

Senator KIM CARR: So the creative work would have occurred just after that?

Ms Gleeson : It started on 19 November when the contract was signed with the successful tenderer.

Senator KIM CARR: What was involved in the creative work at that time on 19 November?

Ms Paul : In what way? It would have worked off of the market research.

Senator KIM CARR: So it just implemented the market research, is that what you are saying?

Ms Paul : Yes, that is right.

Senator KIM CARR: On what date did, Ms Paul, you certify the campaign complied with the short-term interim guidelines on information and advertising campaigns?

Ms Paul : That was 25 November.

Senator KIM CARR: Was that the date that the secretary gave that certification to the minister?

Ms Paul : Not necessarily. I think that was probably some days later. It looks like it would have been in a brief and the date of transmission would have been 2 December, by the looks of it.

Senator KIM CARR: Thank you. Are you able to tell me on what date and in what form the minister sought endorsement from the Special Minister of State?

Ms Paul : The date, yes. It looks like 2 December.

Senator KIM CARR: And what was the form of the endorsement?

Ms Paul : Do you mean transmittal or endorsement by the Special Minister of State?

Senator KIM CARR: What was the form of it?

Ms Paul : I do not know. We will take that on notice.

Senator KIM CARR: I suspect that you will be able to give me a straightforward answer here. On what date did the minister approve the advertising campaign?

Ms Paul : It was 2 December.

Senator KIM CARR: The same day?

Ms Paul : Sorry, do you mean the Special Minister of State?

Senator KIM CARR: Yes.

Ms Paul : Sorry, wrong minister. That was 3 December.

Senator KIM CARR: What is the cabinet decision or the policies of the programs to which the campaign directly related?

Ms Paul : It was decisions taken in the budget.

Senator KIM CARR: Are you able to tell me the date on which that decision was made in regard to the higher education program?

Ms Paul : In regard to —

Senator KIM CARR: The date that the cabinet signed off on the higher education campaign?

Ms Paul : The government decision on the campaign in whatever form was 28 October.

Senator KIM CARR: On 3 December, the Minister for Education, Mr Pyne, made a statement to the effect that Senator Madigan and other unnamed crossbenchers had asked for this information to be prepared. Is that correct?

Ms Paul : I am not familiar with that statement, sorry.

Senator RHIANNON: The minister's comments were widely publicised at the time.

Senator KIM CARR: Yes, they were. I have a Sydney Morning Herald article here dated 8 December.

Senator Birmingham: Certainly there was growing concern in a range of corners, and I suspect from some of the crossbenchers as well, about some of the misinformation and misunderstanding related to the government's proposed higher education reforms and the legislation that was before the Senate.

Ms Paul : Eight December makes sense, because the campaign launched on the seventh.

Senator KIM CARR: The quote here is that Minister Pyne said that independent Senator John Madigan had requested a government run education campaign.

Ms Paul : I am not familiar with that.

Senator KIM CARR: You are not familiar with that. Your media monitoring services didn't pick that up for you?

Ms Paul : I may have seen it at the time, but I would need to be refreshed now.

Senator KIM CARR: Did Senator Madigan make that request?

Ms Paul : I can't tell you. Indeed, it sounds like it was a request to the minister if it occurred. So I would need to take that on notice.

Senator KIM CARR: Minister, are you able to tell me whether Senator Madigan actually made that request?

Senator Birmingham: Senator, I am not privy to the content of conversations between Minister Pyne and crossbenchers. What I am well aware of is that there was growing concern within the government and the department, reflected by some of the research that the department had undertaken, and within parts of the university sector and potentially within some of the crossbenchers that the nature of the university reforms the government was undertaking were being misrepresented and that there was misunderstanding about the nature of those reforms. In particular, in relation to some of the concerns that were being expressed around the country about whether the reforms changed the income contingent repayment nature of higher education fee support. Ultimately, I think you and others have helped with that misrepresentation campaign in terms of feeding fears that there would become some upfront aspect to fees or costs that Australians may face when going to university. Of course, that is blatantly untrue and false when you look at the details of the reforms that the government presented to the parliament.

Senator KIM CARR: You have misquoted me at length. You have clearly misquoted Senator Madigan.

Senator Birmingham: In which way did I misquote you, Senator Carr?

Senator KIM CARR: Because at no point have I made the claims that you are asserting.

Senator Birmingham: So, Senator Carr, on 29 October 2014 in your speech on the legislation, when you talked about Australians facing the prospect of taking out a second mortgage to help pay the costs of their child's education, that was not somehow stoking fear that Australian parents may face an upfront cost?

Senator KIM CARR: That is a statement of fact.

Senator Birmingham: No, it is not a statement of fact. There is absolutely no need for any Australian to take out a first mortgage, a second mortgage or any other mortgage because those fees are able to be put on the HELP scheme and paid back on an income contingent basis.

Senator KIM CARR: It is a statement of fact.

Senator Birmingham: It is not a statement of fact. It is a lie, Senator Carr.

CHAIR: Thank you, Minister. Senator Carr.

Senator KIM CARR: Senator Madigan was accused of asking for this government's propaganda campaign.

Senator O'SULLIVAN: Point of order, Chair.

CHAIR: You can take a point of order.

Senator O'SULLIVAN: This is a perennial question, but I am wondering whether Senator Carr would distribute the article so that we can all read it, understand it and look at part of his presentation in the context of the article. Would he be willing to do that?

Senator KIM CARR: Look, you have a computer in front of you, surely. Look it up.

CHAIR: Could you please give us the date so that the secretariat—

Senator KIM CARR: It has already been done. It is 8 December from the Sydney Morning Herald.

CHAIR: Thank you.

Senator KIM CARR: On that date, Senator Madigan was accused of making this request. Senator Madigan has denied making this request. Are you aware of that?

Ms Paul : No, I am not.

Senator KIM CARR: Minister, are you aware of that?

Senator Birmingham: No, I do not recall that.

Senator KIM CARR: Has the minister apologised to Senator Madigan?

Senator Birmingham: As I said before, I am not aware of the content of private conversations between Minister Pyne and Senator Madigan. And, frankly, the content of those conversations are for either Mr Pyne or Senator Madigan to reveal, not for me or you to reveal.

Senator KIM CARR: I am just going from the public record. The minister has developed a propaganda campaign over some length of time and then sought to blame the crossbenchers for the request.

Senator Birmingham: Senator Carr, I take issue with the description of a propaganda campaign. This is a factual campaign to put to bed some of the lies that you in particular and others in your party have been spreading about the government's higher education reforms.

CHAIR: Thank you, Minister.

Senator KIM CARR: I will ask you to take this on notice: will the Minister for Education apologise to Senator Madigan for the outrageous slur that he has passed upon him?

Senator Birmingham: As I said before, I do not believe it is my place to reveal the content of private conversations between Mr Pyne and any other crossbenchers—Senator Madigan or anybody else. They are private conversations. They are a matter for those two parties. It is a matter for them to choose whether such information is revealed. The minister, of course, often talks with the crossbenchers, particularly through this process, including Senator Madigan. I am sure if there are concerns that the two of them would have discussed them. But that is a matter for the two of them.

Senator KIM CARR: Can I take you, Madam Secretary, back to the estimates of 14 November, 2014? I raised this question of this advertising campaign. I asked you a specific question on many occasions, in fact. I would ask you to have a look at page 83 of the Hansard, if you have it there.

Ms Paul : I am not sure, but anyway I know the exchange you are talking about.

Senator KIM CARR: I asked you a direct question about whether the government has made a decision about this advertising campaign. You said, 'No.' That is the word that appears in the Hansard. Have I misread that?

Ms Paul : Yes.

Senator KIM CARR: How have I misread that?

Ms Paul : I do recall the exchange. It turned out that you, I think, were talking about something completely different, which was a $3 million something-or-other.

Senator KIM CARR: No, I was not. I was talking about this campaign.

Ms Paul : Well, that is not how it reads on reflection. And I do recall the exchange. Anyway, to the extent that I thought that you were talking about a potential campaign, I have reviewed my evidence and it is completely correct. I said that it was a matter for government. And it was a matter for government because I had not certified anything, the minister hadn't signed anything and the Special Minister of State hadn't signed anything et cetera. So we were exactly at that point. So I am comfortable with—

Senator KIM CARR: You are comfortable that the government had made no decision on 14 December, yet tender documents had been issued and contracts had actually been signed. Is that correct? Had contracts been signed by that date?

Ms Paul : I do not think I have the whole run here, but you are actually talking about a $2.5 million campaign which turned out to be—

Senator KIM CARR: No, I was not. I am sorry. There was an attempt made by officers to direct me to that. That is not what I asked you. On page 82 it says, 'I just want to know if the government is considering a television campaign.' A television campaign was specifically referred to. The first answer was, 'That is a matter for government.' I asked again: 'Is the government considering a campaign? And the minister said, 'That is a matter for the government.' I then said, 'So you are not considering it?' The minister said that she was just 'conjuring' up, and then there are various attempts to explain how I was responsible for the matters. Whether or not an invoice would be sent to us was said. So I was clearly talking about the same matters that the minister has referred to this morning. I asked again:

Senator KIM CARR: Is the government planning an advertising campaign?

Ms Paul : That is a matter for government.

Senator KIM CARR: Minister?

Senator Payne: It is a matter for the minister.

Senator KIM CARR: So no decision has been made?

Ms Paul : It is a matter for government.

Senator Payne: It is a matter for the minister.

Senator KIM CARR: I am asking a question. Has a decision been made?

Your answer was, 'No.'

I said:

Senator KIM CARR: I want to be clear about this. You are saying that a decision has not been made?

Now, we are clearly talking about the television campaign. I have been in this committee for many years and I am very concerned that when I ask a specific question about an advertising campaign, which involves many millions of dollars, you say to me no decision has been taken when quite clearly a decision had been taken.

Ms Paul : I have reviewed that run of evidence, because we have both been here for a long time. I always want to be absolutely clear that I would never ever mislead the committee. I am comfortable with my evidence because with the point it was at that time, it may not have proceeded. I remember that time. It depends how good the creative is and it depends on how it comes back, et cetera. We had not finished the formal processes. So that is always an awkward point. Nothing had been announced. But I am absolutely confident with my evidence.

Senator KIM CARR: Madam Secretary, because the government has not announced the decision does not mean a decision has not been taken. Madam Secretary, because you haven't completed all of the processes of implementing a decision, that does not mean that the decision has not been taken.

Ms Paul : Yes, but there were steps to be had. I understand what you are saying—

Senator KIM CARR: Come on! You had issued a tender document.

Ms Paul : There were steps to be had before it was absolutely decided to have a campaign.

Senator KIM CARR: I see. So when you issued a request for tender on 28 October, that was on speculation was it?

Ms Paul : Well, it depends on what the tender comes back with. If the creative hadn't been up to it, if the government had decided, for example, that the timing was not correct for such a campaign. All of those things were still considerations to be had. I can absolutely assure you that all those things were still decisions to be had.

Senator KIM CARR: But hang on. On 16 October, a research contract had been entered into.

Ms Paul : Yes, that is for market research.

Senator Birmingham: That is for research, Senator.

Ms Paul : So at the point that you are talking about, an RFQ had been let but hadn't been finished. So we didn't even know how good the creative would be.

Senator KIM CARR: I see. That was the basis for the creative work for the television campaign, which you say no decision had been taken on.

Ms Paul : What if there is a range of decisions? What if the creative hadn't worked? What if the creative hadn't been assessed to be what would have met the needs of the market research and other needs? What if it had been decided that it was too late in the academic year?

Senator Birmingham: What if it had not been approved by the Special Minister of State on 3 December? What if it had not been approved by Minister Pyne on 2 December? Senator Carr, you went through all of those dates before, that of course will lead to a final decision.

Senator KIM CARR: With a purpose. Madam Secretary, did you not tell me before that the cabinet made a decision on 28 October?

Ms Paul : That is for expenditure.

Senator KIM CARR: For expenditure. So no decision had been taken, yet approval had been made for the expenditure?

Ms Paul : Well, there has to be an approval for expenditure to enable the creative work to be done. But if the creative work had not been up to it or if the government had decided the timing was not right because it was coming close to the end of the academic year of school year, for whatever reason, it may not have proceeded.

Senator KIM CARR: A decision had been taken.

Senator Birmingham: I know that this is a novel concept for your party and the government you were part of, but this government likes to make budget decisions before it decides to actually commit to actually spending the money and before it makes a final decision on spending the money.

Senator KIM CARR: Even when the parliament has rejected it, you are making a decision. But that is an aside. I am not particularly interested in the government's behaviour. We will deal with that in a minute. I am concerned about an officer of this department putting a proposition to this committee which I believe to be untrue. That is a real matter of concern.

Ms Paul : I can't agree with that. I have reviewed my evidence. I always deal with this committee with the greatest respect and it is absolutely my view that there were several steps to be taken which could have meant that a campaign did not happen. You are talking about television. It could have been decided not to do TV, et cetera. All of those decisions had not been taken. I am sorry that we were at that point in terms of your and my interplay, but it is the case that the TV thing may not have happened, the creative may not have been up to it, the timing may not have been right et cetera. Technically, it is not going to be a goer until the Special Minister of State signs it.

Senator Birmingham: Senator Carr, it is a serious allegation you have made. I think Ms Paul has rightly, appropriately and accurately defended the evidence she gave to this committee. You have read out an extensive part of Hansard, but at no point have you put a statement of Ms Paul's to this committee with the suggestion that it was in any way directly incorrect.

Senator KIM CARR: Yes, it is. Yes I have.

Senator Birmingham: If you have such a particular statement where there is a need to correct the record—

Senator KIM CARR: Yes. I have put that, Minister.

Senator Birmingham: then I would invite you to put that exact statement and we can respond to the exact statement rather than general allegations from you.

Senator KIM CARR: Page 83 of the Hansard. It is a specific question. I asked, 'Has a decision been made?'

Ms Paul said, 'No.' That is a direct quote from the Hansard. That is clearly untrue.

Ms Paul : That is after I said, 'That is a matter for government.' I said that many times. Indeed I said it after that.

Senator KIM CARR: Had a decision been made, Ms Paul?

CHAIR: Excuse me, Ms Paul, did you finish giving your answer to Senator Carr?

Ms Paul : Yes, I guess so.

Senator KIM CARR: Thank you. Let's go on.

CHAIR: Senator Carr, there are other senators needing questions. You have had 25 minutes. I might break and go to Senator Ruston and then come back to you. Senator Rhiannon has some questions in this area, too. Senator Ruston.

Senator RUSTON: I want to go to the substance of the research and the advertising campaign that we are talking about, and not the politics of it all. In the first instance, why did the department or the government deem it necessary to even undertake this research and subsequently consider an advertising campaign?

Senator Birmingham: I want to be completely consistent here. I think that question, again, is fine because it is a preview to the research, in a sense. If we are going to get at some point into questions about the content of the research or the more detailed aspects of this issue, they rightly belong in outcome 3 under higher education, just as I said to Senator Carr before. But just as Senator Carr's questions have not crossed that line yet, nor I think is that question.

Senator RUSTON: Sure. I was just trying to get some context around it.

Ms Paul : I think the context is quite long and comprehensive and goes back to when the department tended university open days and so on. But I think we should have that discussion in outcome 3, because it then leads towards when the higher ed people are here. Because it was they who went to the open days and so on.

Senator RUSTON: Okay, I am more than happy to.

CHAIR: Senator Rhiannon.

Senator RHIANNON: You said earlier, Ms Paul, I think it was on 25 November, that it was determined that the planned advertising campaign complied with guidelines. Principle 4 of the department's guidelines for expenditure on advertising state that they should be 'instigated on the basis of a demonstrated need…' Other than the government's desperation to pass its legislation, what was the demonstrated need for the advertising campaign?

Ms Paul : I would actually like to cover that in outcome 3. I need the higher education people here. They are not here for cross portfolio. The need goes back to the open days, et cetera, and the content of what the department found there and so on. So if that is okay, I think we will have the right people to give you a comprehensive answer.

Senator RHIANNON: So you do not want to comment on it?

Ms Paul : I am happy to comment, but I think it would be useful to have the people who actually attended the open days and so on. So I would suggest that that would be a good discussion for outcome 3.

Senator RHIANNON: About the guidelines and how it fits in with the guidelines?

Ms Paul : Yes, that is fine.

Senator RHIANNON: Has the campaign been evaluated to determine its effectiveness?

Ms Paul : There has been an initial evaluation, I think.

Senator RHIANNON: When was that undertaken?

Ms Gleeson : The formal evaluation for the campaign is currently underway. The campaign was completed on 14 February. It will be some weeks.

Senator RHIANNON: I thought that Ms Paul said that there was a preliminary evaluation.

Ms Gleeson : We had some top line results from the first part of the campaign.

Senator RHIANNON: And what were they, please?

Ms Gleeson : They are preliminary indicative results, which are still subject to a formal evaluation of the whole campaign. This is from the first two weeks of the campaign. They seemed to suggest some decreases in the prevalence of myths and misconceptions about the higher education system and also some slight increases in awareness of the reforms. Further, campaign activity shows to be positively correlated to a correction in audiences misconceptions of the reforms. There was an increased awareness of government support for higher education and the mechanisms that will remain in place into the future and some increases in perceptions that the reforms will be beneficial to Australia.

Senator RHIANNON: How was that measured? Is it quantitative or based on focus groups? What sort of research did you undertake?

Ms Paul : I assume that it was qualitative.

Ms Gleeson : It was. I think it was online tracking. I do not have the details here. The methodology for that—

Ms Paul : Why don't we get that for the discussion this evening in outcome 3.

Senator RHIANNON: If you could explain the research. Is it an online survey that you pick up? There are a whole range of metrics these days. It would be useful to know.

Ms Paul : It is quite important to put it in context and we can do that.

Senator RHIANNON: You may have said this earlier. I Just popped out at one point. What was the objectives of the advertising campaign?

Ms Paul : Broadly, it was to address misconceptions that were found to be out in the public from the market research and from our visits from the open days. But we can go into the fine detail of that under outcome 3, if you like. Because some of that goes to—

Senator RHIANNON: I think that it would be useful for us to know the objective for when you run through your assessment. When you do your assessments, is it against your objectives? Is that how you work it?

Ms Paul : It is not us doing the evaluation. It is another company.

Senator RHIANNON: Yes, but you set it out and put a job description to this company.

Ms Paul : Based on the market research, that is right. That is how it works.

Senator RHIANNON: So you are using your objectives and asking them to measure against the objectives. Is that the case?

Ms Paul : That is right. It is based on the market research.

Senator RHIANNON: Can you go through the objectives now, please?

Ms Gleeson : Of course, these were in accordance with principle 1 of the short-term interim guidelines on information and advertising campaigns by Australian government departments and agencies. The campaign objectives of phase 1 were to counter myths and misconceptions about the current higher education system; to raise awareness of government support for higher education and the mechanisms that will remain in place into the future; to set the scene for the reforms; and to encourage audiences to seek further information about current government resources, assistance and financial support for Australian higher education.

Ms Paul : I think we may have already taken that on notice for Senator Carr. But we will take that on notice.

Senator RHIANNON: Yes, for when we come back to outcome 3.

Ms Paul : Just those objectives?

Senator RHIANNON: Yes.

Ms Paul : Sure. We will have to extract them but we will bring that back to outcome 3.

Senator RHIANNON: Minister, is it common for governments to run advertising campaigns for policies that have not gone through the parliament? They are effectively party policies because the bill has not been approved.

Senator Birmingham: I do believe that the previous government did that at some length in a number of ways, including in relation to the schools campaign.

Senator RHIANNON: Does that make it right? Does that make it correct, Minister?

Senator Birmingham: It certainly is not unusual for governments to seek to ensure that the public understands what is occurring, especially in this case where there were concerns coming into the university year this year that students and families were being misled as a result of the public misinformation campaign being run by opponents to these reforms, including yourself, Senator Rhiannon, into thinking that somehow up-front fees would be applied. So it was felt important to make sure that students were reassured that there would be no up-front fees as a result of the reforms that the government was undertaking—that in fact we were expanding access in many ways. So, Senator Rhiannon, firstly to your direct question: no it is not unprecedented by any means. There are definitely examples in relation to other governments. Secondly, in terms of the need for it, there was absolutely a need to try to address some of the misconceptions that existed—even yours. I can quote from your speech on 29 October 2014. You said:

By raising university fees the Liberals and the Nationals are slamming the door on opportunity for millions of Australians. Coalition policy is about keeping the world as a place with haves and have-nots.

All of that of course is creating the perception that somehow people would have to pay up-front fees, which is just completely untrue, Senator Rhiannon.

Senator RHIANNON: You do need to be accurate. I did not say that. You are now verballing us. I did not say that. I was very accurate.

Senator Birmingham: You are welcome to explain how the change that does not involve any up-front fees slams the door on opportunity for people to attend—

CHAIR: Point of order, Senator O'Neill.

Senator O'NEILL: I thought that the job we were doing was asking the questions of the minister and the department. It is extraordinary to have the minister now asking for an explanation of a senator to justify—

Senator Birmingham: Senator Rhiannon said that I was verballing her—

CHAIR: Minister! Senator O'Neill has the call.

Senator O'NEILL: I can only put it down to the aggressive defensive capacity within the minister at this point of time.

CHAIR: There is no point of order, Senator O'Neill.

Senator Birmingham: There is no aggressive defensive capacity, Senator O'Neill. It is all done with a smile.

CHAIR: Minister! That is not helpful.

Senator O'Neill interjecting

Senator Birmingham interjecting

Senator Lines interjecting

CHAIR: Senator Lines!

Senator LINES: You can waste time defending the indefensible.

Senator Birmingham: Senator Lines, if you would like to debate the issues we can have a debate of the issues.

Senator Kim Carr interjecting

CHAIR: Senators and Minister! There is going to be plenty of time to talk about it. There is going to be plenty of time across the chamber for 'He said; she said' and about $100,000 degrees. Senator Rhiannon.

Senator RHIANNON: Minister, are you aware that at no time the government or anybody has disputed the information that was put on the website www.whatwillmydegreecost.com.au? It got one million hits. Half a million people did the calculations. It provided a resource for the public to understand in the early days just after the budget the implications of this legislation, when your government, your minister, was not revealing to the public and to students and their families getting ready to come to university in 2015 what the real cost of their degree would be. Now, we have been quite clear and accurate at all times.

CHAIR: Do you have a question, Senator?

Senator RHIANNON: Yes. I am asking him if he was aware that at no time was that information ever challenged as incorrect? We have been the ones informing the public—

CHAIR: Sorry, the question is?

Senator RHIANNON: Was he aware that at no time the data that we provided publicly has been challenged?

Senator Birmingham: Senator Rhiannon, most of what I have seen from you has been misinformation rather than information.

Senator RHIANNON: Can you identify where?

CHAIR: Ms Paul looked like she had something to contribute.

Ms Paul : I am not sure whether I dare, really. I have two points. One is the technical answer to your first question about whether a campaign is allowed when the legislation hasn't been passed or enacted. The answer is yes, it is allowed. These guidelines allow it. Past guidelines have allowed it. I have certified such campaigns before. The interim guidelines say a cabinet decision which is intended to be implemented during the current parliament. That is the cover there. In terms of the Greens website, actually the department did find many flaws with it. We did have a discussion along these lines in the budget estimates of 2014. We could revisit those, although we would have to do it under outcome 3 because I would need people here. We did actually have a conversation and I think it is fair to refer to that.

Senator RHIANNON: Not specifically. So if the minister and Ms Paul can put on the record where it was inaccurate. You have said that I have misrepresented the legislation. You need to be accurate when you make those serious accusations.

Senator Birmingham: Senator Rhiannon, I have quoted you. But beyond that, if you would like us to go through errors in the Greens' figures, we can certainly attempt to do that tonight. I am also happy to take it on notice and come back with further evidence in relation to how the Greens have used figures misleadingly. I think that Mr Norton has said that your figures are misleading. I think if you look at the facts of what the UWA—

Senator RHIANNON: You need to say where.

Senator Birmingham: I will happily seek a quote, Senator Rhiannon. As I said, we can discuss the misleading Greens campaign in outcome 3 tonight at length. And I will also take it on notice for us to provide information about where it is misleading.

Senator RHIANNON: Excellent. Thank you, Chair.

CHAIR: No worries. Senator O'Neill.

Senator O'NEILL: Can I just clarify my request for that page? If you could table that now so that we could actually see it. I am happy to get the document later, but that is a single page and it is pretty easy to photocopy.

Ms Paul : It is embedded in a brief, so we will have to extract it. We will do it as soon as we can.

Senator O'NEILL: Is it that hard?

CHAIR: Can we try and get it out of the brief before lunch?

Ms Paul : Yes, we can do that. Perhaps over morning tea. You just wanted the objectives, didn't you?

Senator O'NEILL: Well, we want the whole document, as requested by Senator Carr. But that page now would be helpful.

Ms Paul : I am not sure what document you are referring to. Senator Carr asked for the ORIMA Research, didn't you?

Senator KIM CARR: I did.

Senator Birmingham: Which Ms Paul took on notice.

Ms Paul : I am not sure what document these objectives are in. But I will take on notice to look at what document that is.

Senator O'NEILL: And provide the full document.

Ms Paul : I will take that on notice.

Senator O'NEILL: And the early provision of the actual outcomes.

Ms Paul : Of the objectives. Yes, I have got it.

CHAIR: Senator Lines has one quick clarification.

Senator LINES: Back to you, Ms Paul, in relation to child care. I want to seek assurances. You did say that it was the same officials that we will meet at the next estimates for DSS. Will they answer questions which relate to matters before the program was transferred?

Ms Paul : Yes. So if you are interested in EYQF, for example, they are prepared to answer those questions. So, yes, that is right. They are on Friday morning. We did have that discussion.

CHAIR: Senator Carr.

Senator KIM CARR: I presume that you will not have this in a readily available form. If you have I would be delighted to take it now. I am interested to know the details of the media buy. Which outlets were utilised on what dates and how much was spent on each occasion? What languages were used? How many radio and television outlets were used and what did the social media campaign consist of?

Ms Paul : Yes, we can provide that on notice.

Senator KIM CARR: In regard to the creative development, who is undertaking that role?

Ms Gleeson : The name of the company is BCM Partnership.

Senator KIM CARR: How much is that contract for?

Ms Gleeson : The budgeted amount for the creative development for the campaign was $2.3 million.

Senator KIM CARR: How much was the total campaign again?

Ms Paul : That was the budgeted amount. We should actually tell you what was spent.

Ms Gleeson : Committed funds for creative development to date is $2.1 million.

Senator KIM CARR: What is the total campaign budget?

Ms Gleeson : It is the $14.6 million.

Senator RUSTON: Didn't you read the response to your letter?

Senator KIM CARR: It pays to actually ask. If you had a little bit more time here you would appreciate that. Of that $14.6 million, is that $2.3 million is a subset of that?

Ms Paul : Yes.

Senator KIM CARR: Thank you. Who is responsible for the website development?

Ms Gleeson : That was done in-house by the department.

Ms Paul : It was also done by the shared services centre that we buy some of our corporate services for—just to be absolutely clear. There is a hopefully soon to be government-wide shared services centre from which we buy all sorts of corporate services, including web services.

Senator KIM CARR: Is that part of the media buy or is that a separate matter?

Ms Paul : No.

Senator KIM CARR: So what is the $2.3 million spent on? Can you take me through that line by line?

Ms Paul : It would be spent broadly on exactly what you have asked for—that is, the creatives for the TV ads and any type of actual ads are developed in that creative.

Senator KIM CARR: Can we get a breakdown of the difference between the radio and TV on that?

Ms Paul : Sure. It should be possible.

Senator KIM CARR: What was the date on which you selected BCM Partnership to undertake this work?

Ms Gleeson : BCM Partnership's contract was signed with the department on 19 November.

Ms Paul : And that was to develop the creative.

Senator KIM CARR: There was a reference in your letter to the contact centre support. What does that involve?

Ms Gleeson : That is the departments hotline, if you like. There is a dedicated higher education telephone number.

Senator KIM CARR: It is a call centre, is it?

Ms Gleeson : Call centres.

Senator KIM CARR: How much is that cost?

Ms Paul : The budget for this campaign is as you see it in my letter—$500,000. That contact line has been in existence for a long time. It is currently outsourced. So it is just the higher ed. It was not created for this campaign, if that is a clearer way of putting it.

Senator KIM CARR: So that $500,000 referred to is a specific allocation for the call centre to undertake this work?

Ms Paul : Correct.

Senator KIM CARR: How many calls have you received?

Ms Gleeson : I think that it is in the order of 134 calls.

Senator KIM CARR: 134 calls? We spent $500,000 on a call centre and got 134 calls?

Ms Paul : No, just to clarify: my letter, as you would be aware, is an overall budget. That was the overall budget, for example, for the creative development. In my letter it was $2.3 million and yet Ms Gleeson has already told you so far the commitment—not even a spend which will be a lesser figure again—is $2.1 million. So clearly the contact centre—which as I say is a pre-existing contact centre where we are quite clear that we pay for volume—wouldn't have spent anything like $500,000 if that is where we are. The hits have been more to the website and so on. So we will not spend that $500,000. We can take on notice when the campaign is finished how much was actually spent.

Senator KIM CARR: How many people are employed in the call centre?

Ms Paul : I do not know. We will have to take that on notice. I think through the shared services centre we contract out for a whole lot of different lines.

Senator KIM CARR: But you have been allocated $500,000, so you must be able to give us an indication of how many people have been employed in this call centre.

Ms Paul : They are the people who have always been employed to answer higher education questions. I will take it on notice.

Senator KIM CARR: How much do you pay the call centre on an annual basis?

Ms Paul : I have no idea. I'll take it on notice.

Senator KIM CARR: What other work to they do for you?

Ms Paul : I will take that on notice, too. I am not completely sure. I think we have always had, in every iteration, a contact centre or we have outsourced to contact centres.

Senator KIM CARR: So you should be able to tell me how much you spend on that if it has been long established.

Ms Paul : Yes, we will.

Senator KIM CARR: The 134 calls that you have received, from what dates does that occur?

Ms Gleeson : It is over the period of the campaign.

Senator KIM CARR: So give me the dates, please.

Ms Gleeson : I will take that on notice.

Senator KIM CARR: What is the nature of the calls?

Ms Paul : We would definitely have to take that on notice. I do not think we would have that with us. I am happy to do so.

Senator KIM CARR: What, they were people ringing up complaining about the Labor Party, were they?

Ms Paul : I am happy to take it on notice.

Senator Birmingham: I get plenty of those sorts of calls, Senator.

Senator KIM CARR: Yes, but you don’t get paid $500,000.

Ms Paul : They won't have been paid $500,000. That is the budget.

Senator KIM CARR: How much have you spent to date on the call centre?

Ms Paul : I will take that on notice.

Senator KIM CARR: On the bottom of page 1 of your letter, Ms Paul, there are six line items. Are there any other costs associated with this campaign?

Ms Paul : We have said 'other' costs. This is the comprehensive list.

Senator KIM CARR: That is what I am asking. What are the other costs? You say 'other costs' of $200,000. What is that?

Ms Gleeson : That is a budgeted amount. We talk about the 'other' category, including costs for items such as pull-up banners and also for pitching fees.

Senator KIM CARR: What is a pitching fee in this context?

Ms Gleeson : A pitching fee is a fee that the department pays to the companies that have been invited to tender for the creative concepts. So it is to cover some of their costs.

Ms Paul : It is because they have done the creative work before they pitch.

Senator KIM CARR: Has the market research service been acquitted yet?

Ms Gleeson : No, not completely.

Senator KIM CARR: How much has been spent on market research services?

Ms Gleeson : I would need to take that on notice.

Ms Paul : Do you want to know how much has been committed?

Senator KIM CARR: Yes.

Ms Gleeson : Committed funds in terms of research on the campaign is in the order of $685,576.

Senator KIM CARR: Thank you. So there remains further monies to be spent for market research. Is that the case?

Ms Gleeson : There are uncommitted and underspent funds.

Ms Paul : We do not plan to do more, though, at the moment.

Senator KIM CARR: Is it intended to have further market research to spend those unspent funds?

Ms Paul : Not at present, but the budget remains there in case there is more to do. But not at present, no. We are not undertaking any market research.

Senator KIM CARR: How much has been committed on the website?

Ms Gleeson : It is $245.

Senator KIM CARR: So you have $1.3 million allocated. When is the rest going to be spent?

Ms Paul : I do not know. We might need to take that on notice. I'm not sure why there is a difference there. I think possibly because we did it in-house.

Senator KIM CARR: In my experience, getting $1.3 million out of Finance for a website would be an interesting experience in itself. Getting $1.3 million for a website development is quite a lot of money, especially when you are doing it in-house

Ms Paul : Yes.

Senator KIM CARR: I presume that was the proposition you put to the Department of Finance when this proposition went forward.

Ms Paul : I can't remember.

Senator KIM CARR: Did you tell them you have a contract or that you are going to do it in-house?

Ms Paul : I can't remember. I do not know. I'm happy to take it on notice. Clearly, we have not spent $1.3 million and we are unlikely to do so because it has been done in-house. In-house meaning through the shared services centre arrangement.

Senator Birmingham: That may go back to the point I was making earlier, which is that this government likes to budget before it spends. Ideally, expenditure is kept within the budget. If as the processes are undertaken there become ways to—

Senator Kim Carr interjecting

Senator Birmingham: Senator, I would like to finish my answer.

Senator O'Neill interjecting

Senator Birmingham: I would like to finish my answer, Senator O'Neill. If there are ways during the development of a program for the government to achieve efficiencies, then that of course is welcomed by the government.

Senator KIM CARR: Thank you. How much of the media buy has actually been spent? Of the $9.5 million, how much of that has been allocated?

Ms Gleeson : As of yesterday, committed funds for the media buy were $6.2 million.

Ms Paul : Note that we are saying 'committed', which gives you the bigger number than what has actually been spent. But you understand—

Senator KIM CARR: I do understand the difference.

Ms Paul : Of course.

Senator KIM CARR: So there are unspent funds up to $9.5 million, minus the $6.2 million. Is that right?

Ms Gleeson : Correct.

Senator KIM CARR: So you still have a few more million to go. Is that for stage 2 of the campaign?

Ms Paul : It could be that that will be considered later. It is not under active consideration at the moment.

Senator KIM CARR: The part that is called 1B, is that—

Ms Paul : That has already happened.

Senator KIM CARR: And there is a second tranche of advertising to come, isn't there?

Ms Paul : There could be, particularly if the legislation goes through and so on. There may be and it does allow for that. But that is not being considered now, obviously.

Senator KIM CARR: Should the legislation not go through, because this has already been rejected once, is this campaign intended to continue?

Ms Paul : The two parts which have been certified and decided on by the Special Minister of State are complete. So anything further is a matter of the government.

Senator KIM CARR: So there has been an underspend—that would be a fair description—in regard to the media buy and market research. What about creative development? Has that been fully committed?

Ms Paul : I think we have been through that.

Senator Birmingham: I think you heard before it is $2.1 million against $2.3 million.

Senator KIM CARR: So all of that underspend is to go back to Finance, is it?

Ms Paul : I don't know. It is good that we have underspent. That is always a good thing, of course. Any further activity will be a matter for government to consider.

Senator KIM CARR: A stage 2 is intended, is it not?

Ms Paul : Yes, there is the notion that if the legislation does go through, then usually you would have some sort of information about what that means. As you say, there were two parts to this campaign—1A and 1B—and they have been completed.

Senator KIM CARR: The decision on the rollout of stage 2 will not be made until after the Senate votes, is that the case?

Ms Paul : I would imagine so. That is a matter for the government.

Senator KIM CARR: Where is the government finding the money to run this particular campaign? Where is the $14.6 million coming from?

Ms Paul : I cannot recall. Can I take that on notice?

Senator KIM CARR: It should be pretty straightforward.

Ms Paul : No, not necessarily. I would prefer to take it on notice.

Senator KIM CARR: Will you be able to give me an answer today?

Ms Paul : I should be able to.

Senator KIM CARR: $5.5 million has been put to me as the budget for phase 2. Is that correct?

Ms Paul : Is it correct in saying that is what is unspent at the moment? Yes. Clearly it sits there. But as I just said, whether that is put to a further purpose will be something for the government to consider.

Senator KIM CARR: Minister, is it the case that phase 2 of this campaign will not proceed if the vote in the Senate is lost—if there is a vote in the Senate?

Senator Birmingham: I am not going to deal in hypotheticals. The government wants to get its legislation through and continues to engage constructively with the Senate to try to get its legislative package through. That is the new legislative package that was introduced last year. If you would ever like to have constructive conversations about it, we would welcome engagement with you as well.

Senator KIM CARR: On all the indications, Minister, you would be aware that the Senate is not likely to pass this legislation. So when will the Senate actually be getting the opportunity to vote this legislation down?

Senator Birmingham: Senator Carr, you may like to play Nostradamus when it comes to how the Senate handles these matters. I am surprised you do that, because you have been in this place longer than I, and I have certainly learnt over the years never to pre-empt what the Australian Senate may do. It can be a very unpredictable beast.

Senator KIM CARR: When will it be actually listed so we can get this matter resolved?

Senator Birmingham: As you well know, it is before a couple of Senate inquiries at present, and it would be against standing orders for it to be listed until they report.

Senator KIM CARR: That is right. So when will it be listed? Immediately after those reports?

Senator Birmingham: It will be a matter for the government to determine.

Senator KIM CARR: The minister has indicated that if he can't get it through by March, then he is going to withdraw the bill. Is that still his position?

Senator Birmingham: I will happily take that on notice.

Senator KIM CARR: Can I go to the specifics of the campaign, because you have signed off on some matters, Madam Secretary. The government claims in its advertisements that the package will pay about half the costs of students. Can you confirm that?

Ms Paul : Yes, we can. But I would like to do that under outcome 3 because I need the people who have done the analysis which sat behind the advice to me and on which my certification is based. So that is best done with the higher ed folk in outcome 3. I am happy to do so.

Senator KIM CARR: There are a series of matters I want to go to there. They go to the question about the basis on which you have certified.

Ms Paul : Yes, that is fine.

Senator KIM CARR: I think we are entitled to know what the calculation was that you made in certifying that.

Ms Paul : Sure.

Senator KIM CARR: There is a claim, for instance, that one in every five dollars of additional revenue raised by higher education providers from fees will be used to support access for disadvantaged students. Is that verifiable? How we verify that?

Ms Paul : Well, let's take that in outcome 3. You are going to the content of the reforms now. That is a discussion for outcome three.

CHAIR: Senator Ruston has one quick question, I think. I just want to ensure that we are sticking with cross portfolio. I note that ACARA and AITSL, the next two agencies, are in the room. Senator Ruston.

Senator RUSTON: Ms Paul, in response to some of Senator Carr's questions you made reference to the fact that this wasn't a particularly unusual situation and that you have certified past campaigns that were similar. Can you give us some sort of comparison? In listening to some of the questioning, I'm thinking that some sort of unusual thing is occurring here. Can you give us some historical perspective on what has happened in the past?

Ms Paul : The certification by the CEO is always a feature of any campaign. So I guess over the 10 years I have been a secretary, I will have certified a large number. I can't remember all of them. There has been nothing else since the change of government. The most recent one I think would have been the national plan for school improvement under the former government. That was then changed to the Better Schools. That was a $21 million campaign. That was what I was obliquely thinking of when Senator Rhiannon asked about whether it was okay to do a campaign before legislation passed. The former guidelines allowed that, and I said that the guidelines allow it. That campaign would be an example of where a campaign started before the Australian Education Act was passed under the former government. Before that it would have been, I think, when there were some big child care ones of about the same price as this budget, but not higher than the spend of this. They were to alert people to the availability of child-care rebates and so on. There were two of those, I think. All of those would probably be more expensive than this one has been. I could go back but I can't actually remember.

CHAIR: You might answer in detail in outcome 3.

Senator RUSTON: Yes. I was trying to get a sense of similar campaigns. So if you look at the $21 million Gonski Better Schools campaign, it would be really quite interesting to know because we have already said that we are going to unpack some of this detail at outcome 3. I would be interested in unpacking that and whether we could have a look at the differences and the similarities between the two, so that we do get a perspective of whether this is a normal sort of a campaign.

Ms Paul : Yes. This one has gone along exactly the same processes. We always go through the same processes of seeking funds, doing market research, having a tender and then the creative and then the certification et cetera. I cannot remember exactly the guidelines under the former government but, nonetheless, the steps are all the same. That most recent one, which I suppose I can remember better than the others, was of course much bigger and it also started before the legislation was passed.

CHAIR: Senator Carr.

Senator KIM CARR: How many pieces of advertising have you been involved with that involved legislation that had actually been defeated in the parliament?

Ms Paul : I was talking to Senator Rhiannon about a decision which is intended to be implemented during the current parliament, and of course that is absolutely the case. The certification met that criteria and continues to do so.

Senator KIM CARR: On how many occasions have you signed off on an advertising campaign around a piece of legislation that has actually been defeated by the parliament?

Senator Birmingham: Senator Carr, an amended bill, a new bill, was introduced into the House of Representatives late last year.

Senator KIM CARR: At that time, the minister said it was 90 per cent the same.

Senator Birmingham: That means it was 10 per cent different, Senator Carr.

Senator KIM CARR: The parliament made a call on this matter. Madam Secretary, how many occasions have you signed off on matters to be the subject of an advertising campaign when the parliament has rejected it?

Ms Paul : I do not think that is the situation that we find ourselves in.

Senator KIM CARR: I would have thought the vote last year was pretty clear.

Senator Birmingham: We have a new bill before the parliament, Senator Carr. You I am sure well know that there are occasions in the life of the Australian parliament where it passes legislation that it has previously not passed, frequently in a different form after some amendments. Most recently, I can think of the repeal of the carbon tax being one such example. That took a couple of goes. But that was ultimately passed by the Senate.

Senator KIM CARR: The interim guidelines require campaign materials to 'enable the recipients of the information to distinguish between facts, comment, opinion and analysis.' That is a requirement of the matter. I note your campaign website, www.highered.gov.au, includes a claim that the government is providing more support, for instance, in regard to student services, which of course quite clearly it is not because the Higher Education and Research Reform Bill introduced into the house on 3 December outlined cuts to higher education funding of $451 million for the forward estimates and $5.8 billion over a ten-year period. The website actually says that, 'the department does not make any representation or warranty about the accuracy, reliability, currency or completeness of any material contained on this website.' I'm just wondering how you get the two propositions to line up.

Ms Paul : You are now entering into the debate about the reforms, and I think that is probably more appropriate when we have the high ed people here for outcome 3. I am quite happy to go through it then.

Senator KIM CARR: But there is quite clearly a disclaimer on the government's own website, on the department's website, as to its accuracy.

Ms Paul : I think all websites have that disclaimer. I do not think there is anything new about that. I am happy to check.

Senator KIM CARR: But you could sign off on a series of highly contentious advertising campaigns where the parliament has specifically rejected the government's proposal and still think it is consistent with the normal operations, as the secretary of the department.

Ms Paul : You are putting an opinion to me—

Senator KIM CARR: I am asking the question: is that consistent?

Ms Paul : The processes we followed have been absolutely clear and I am quite happy to go through the bits that go to a policy consideration later on in outcome 3. Basically, the story is our people attended 46 open days in the middle of the year, talking to 8,000 prospective students and families. Many of those people thought that HECS was going to be abolished and that they would have to pay upfront fees. The market research confirmed that. The campaign is based around the market research in the normal way that creatives are based around the market research. I am confident in the certification. But I'm quite happy to have a longer chat about policy matters later.

Senator KIM CARR: Given you have only received 134 calls, doesn't that contradict the suggestion there was deep or widespread concern?

Ms Paul : I think most activity has been towards the website.

Senator Birmingham: Perhaps, Senator Carr, it says that those seeing the campaign information were appropriately reassured that the statements you and others have been making were false.

Senator KIM CARR: Tell me about the campaign Facebook page. When was that created?

Ms Paul : We will have to take that on notice.

Senator KIM CARR: Is that part of the campaign?

Ms Paul : No, I don't think so. The campaign is the paid advertising. You could think about that as similar to the website.

Senator KIM CARR: Can you tell me the date the Facebook page went live?

Ms Paul : That is what I think we have just taken on notice.

Senator KIM CARR: What is the cost of the creation of that particular—

Ms Paul : I suspect it is part of the website, is it?

Ms Gleeson : It has a zero cost associated with it.

Senator KIM CARR: And the cost of maintenance of the campaign Facebook page?

Ms Gleeson : It has zero cost, Senator.

Senator KIM CARR: Why is that? Are there no staff that monitor it.

Ms Gleeson : Staff internally.

Senator KIM CARR: Yes, but there is still a cost.

Ms Paul : Yes, but it is not part of the $14.6 million.

Senator KIM CARR: So that is a separate cost, is it? How many staff would monitor the Facebook page?

Ms Paul : Probably not very many, but we take that on notice. I suppose you could count that as part of the $14.6 million under website development. But as it has happened, we have managed to do it with existing resources. However, if you would like me to cost up out of the website development $1.3 million how much has been spent in terms of staff time internally, I am happy to do that. It might give you what you are looking for.

Senator KIM CARR: What about the Twitter username—@HighEdGovAu? What date was that created?

Ms Gleeson : These were all timed to be in the public arena for the commencement of the first part of the campaign. The date that we launch that. But I would like to take that on notice and confirm it because it may have been a few hours prior. I would just like to be accurate with the timing.

Senator KIM CARR: I would obviously be interested in the cost of the Twitter page. What was the date the higher education hotline was actually established?

Ms Gleeson : It was already in existence.

Ms Paul : When was it scripted? I think what you probably want to know is when was the existing hotline scripted for this.

Senator KIM CARR: Yes.

Ms Paul : We will take that on notice.

Senator KIM CARR: What evaluation processes had been undertaken?

Ms Paul : We have been through that.

Senator KIM CARR: Yes, I know you were asked the question from Senator Rhiannon.

Ms Paul : Basically the answer was that there is a company currently doing an evaluation and they have not finished yet. The initial top line results were described by Ms Gleeson.

Ms Gleeson : Some decreases in the prevalence of myths and misconceptions about the higher education system and some slight increases in awareness of the reforms.

Senator KIM CARR: What are the percentages? Do you have the details there?

Ms Paul : These are top line, so it doesn't have it.

Ms Gleeson : We do not have a formal report yet.

Ms Paul : The evaluation is currently underway.

Senator KIM CARR: On what date was that undertaken?

Ms Paul : We can take it on notice. There were two stages. Why don't we give you both.

Senator KIM CARR: Can you tell me, in terms of your research how many people actually believed that the HECS scheme had been abolished?

Ms Paul : It was prevalent. I would have to take on notice that percentage, but it was absolutely prevalent and quite confrontingly so. In the 46 open days and experiences—

Senator KIM CARR: No, in your research.

Ms Paul : And then also in the research.

Senator KIM CARR: I have noticed in your letter that the claim was made about 8,000 students over 41 days. Is that your assertion? The department spoke to 8,000 students?

Ms Paul : Yes. That is our estimate

Senator KIM CARR: And 8,000 students had told you that they thought that HECS was being abolished?

Ms Paul : I did not say that. I said it was a prevalent view. We have said that in evidence before. At supplementary estimates we said that.

Senator KIM CARR: How do you determine prevalence?

Ms Paul : I think that is a discussion for tonight, actually. Because the people who attended those will be here under outcome 3. You will get fuller details there. But it was certainly prevalent. Their market research found that, too. But we can go into all of that tonight, if you like.

Senator KIM CARR: The guidelines require you to do specific things. Campaign materials have to identify a target audience. How did you test the material with targeted audiences?

Ms Gleeson : We had an external provider, an expert research company, that we engaged to undertake concept and refinement testing.

Senator KIM CARR: Who was that?

Ms Gleeson : That was ORIMA Research.

Senator KIM CARR: The same crowd.

Ms Gleeson : Correct.

Senator KIM CARR: How much did they get paid that?

Ms Gleeson : The total value of the contract is up to $385,576.

Senator KIM CARR: So their $385,000 was just to test the campaign materials, was it?

Ms Gleeson : To do concept testing before commencement and also prior to placement of advertisements in the public arena to make minor refinements based on feedback from focus groups.

Senator KIM CARR: What exactly was tested?

Ms Gleeson : The creative concepts. There were television advertisement and radio scripts. Any material that was placed in paid channels through the Australian government master media agency was tested through this process.

Ms Paul : It always is. It is after the market research and so on.

Senator KIM CARR: What dates were they tested?

Ms Gleeson : The creative concepts were tested with target audiences between 12 to 14 November, 2014. That was concept testing.

Ms Paul : There is a 1B, so they have been tested again.

Senator KIM CARR: But, Ms Paul, on 14 November you are telling me that no decision had been taken.

Ms Paul : That is absolutely right. Back to this one, you remember the date of actually signing up with the creative company was after we had been in here and I said, 'What if those concepts had not worked. What if the government had determined that it was the wrong timing,' et cetera. We have been through this.

Ms Gleeson : In fact, the concept testing was part of the evaluation panel's consideration as to who to appoint.

Ms Paul : Which came afterwards.

Senator KIM CARR: The timing issue really is only whether or not you did it before Christmas, wasn't it?

Ms Paul : There were two phases as it happened. There was one before Christmas and one after. The sort of considerations are if it is too late in the academic year, et cetera. It was decided to go with a couple of weeks. But all of those things had not been decided at that point.

CHAIR: Any other questions?

Senator KIM CARR: Yes, I have quite a few other questions.

CHAIR: In cross portfolio?

Senator KIM CARR: Yes.

CHAIR: Are they the ones you want to do with tonight in the appropriate outcome?

Senator O'NEILL: I have some cross portfolio.

CHAIR: Thank you, Senator O'Neill.

Senator O'NEILL: I want to clarify a question before I move off the line that Senator Carr has been exploring. Has there been any creative work done for the second phase?

Ms Gleeson : No, no creative work has been undertaken for a second phase.

Ms Paul : I think we spoke to that before.

Senator O'NEILL: There is a little bit of money left though, isn't there?

Ms Paul : Well, that is a good thing, isn't it? But what use it will be put to is not yet determined.

Senator O'NEILL: Can I go to questions about the MYEFO statement? This is a question about that statement on page 27 that goes to the functional and efficiency reviews of major government bodies. The statement indicates that the government is going to commence in-depth reviews and the reviews are going to determine whether the resources and functions performed are aligned with the government's policies. It indicates that the departments of health and education, other than higher education, are going to be the first bodies to be reviewed. My question in relation to the department's functional review is, which entity will conduct the review?

Ms Paul : It is to be conducted by an independent review team.

Senator O'NEILL: Can I have a little bit more information about that, Ms Paul?

Ms Paul : Sure, what would you like?

Senator O'NEILL: Who are the independent review team?

Ms Paul : Yes. Nous Group consulting formed the independent review team and Jennifer Westacott has lead review oversight.

Senator O'NEILL: 'Nous Group'—is that what you said? N-O-U-S?

Ms Paul : Yes.

Senator O'NEILL: And how many consultants were given the opportunity to put in a bid for this review?

Ms Paul : That was left with the independent oversight reviewer, Jennifer Westacott.

Senator O'NEILL: It is in the hands of Ms Westacott, this decision—is that correct?

Ms Paul : Yes. And I have just been reminded that we did run a small process for interest, if—

Senator O'NEILL: Could you just take me through that please?

Ms Paul : Sure.

Senator O'NEILL: And if we could just go back to Jennifer Westacott getting this position? Talk me through the whole but history of what is going on here?

Ms Paul : Sure. I will start. Choosing the lead oversight person was a matter for ministers Pyne and Cormann. That is their decision, based on advice from us.

Senator O'NEILL: And did you provide a number of names for the ministers to consider?

Ms Paul : Yes, we did.

Senator O'NEILL: Would you be able to provide us with that list?

Ms Paul : Probably not, because it is to do with a decision that relates to cabinet. But I will certainly take it on notice—more than happy to take it on notice.

Senator O'NEILL: Are you saying that is confidential?

Ms Paul : Only in that this comes out of a cabinet process. I will take it on notice and it may be absolutely fine to give to you. I am happy to do that.

Senator O'NEILL: And what were the criteria on which you created that short list that we hope you may be able to furnish?

Ms Paul : It was to meet the particular terms of reference and to be able to do a review within a certain time et cetera. All those things were taken into account.

Senator O'NEILL: I will come back to the terms of reference. There were a number of names proffered, Jennifer Westacott was the selection of both ministers—Pyne and Cormann—

Ms Paul : Yes.

Senator O'NEILL: And the date at which that occurred.

Ms Paul : Gosh—can we take that on notice for you?

Senator O'NEILL: Yes, please. And there is this contract arrangement?

Ms Paul : Yes—I will have to clarify that too, actually.

Senator O'NEILL: And how much is that contract worth?

Ms Paul : I think the lead reviewer is working essentially pro bono. Then, of course, Nous Group will be paid for by us. We can supply those arrangements on notice, if you like.

Senator O'NEILL: Yes—how much that contract is, and who else tendered for the work.

Ms Paul : Sure.

Senator O'NEILL: And the criteria on which Nous Group was selected.

Ms Paul : Sure—we can take all that on notice.

Senator O'NEILL: Wonderful. Ms Monkely?

Ms Monkley : Just going to the firms that we approached in the lead-up to making our selection: we approached six different companies and asked them to provide a response on the basis of the terms of reference of the review. Firstly, we asked them to indicate whether they were interested in undertaking the review and then to provide us with a response. We did not receive responses from all of them. As we worked with the reviewer we actually narrowed the field and that led to the Nous Group.

Senator O'NEILL: And the terms of reference that you are referring to: are they able to be provided to the committee now?

Ms Paul : I do not think they are in the public gaze, actually, but can I take that on notice?

Senator O'NEILL: Because it would be—

Ms Paul : Yes.

Senator O'NEILL: Can I ask for the terms of reference?

Ms Paul : Sure—I will take it on notice.

Senator O'NEILL: And today, please.

Ms Paul : We will see what we can do.

Senator O'NEILL: What is the time line on this review—the process you have gone through? When did this commence? What has gone on so far, and what is the forward program?

Ms Paul : It only commenced recently. We would have to get a date but, let's say, several weeks ago—a couple of weeks ago. I am not sure—

Senator O'NEILL: In the post-Christmas period?

Ms Paul : Post-Christmas—yes. Hopefully, it will be the case that the review team can report by the end of March.

Senator O'NEILL: So, by 31 March you are hoping to have a report back?

Ms Paul : Yes, I believe so.

Senator O'NEILL: Which department is overseeing this review?

Ms Paul : We are. Well—sorry—the review reports to both ministers. Obviously, this department has the key role, but we are also liaising with the Department of Finance very closely because the reporting line is to both ministers.

Senator O'NEILL: Ms Paul, were you engaged to highlight any areas of the department that you thought were particularly ripe for review?

Ms Paul : No. That was a decision of government, and indeed it has changed because of the MoG change before Christmas. So the scope is the scope of the current department minus the higher education area.

Senator O'NEILL: How much has been allocated to this task? How much are Nous Group going to get?

Ms Paul : It is not so much a matter of allocating, because, as I say, the lead reviewer is working largely pro bono. We have already taken on notice the sort of payment arrangements for now, so we will put that on notice for you.

Senator O'NEILL: Do you have any ballpark numbers?

Ms Paul : Not yet.

Senator O'NEILL: Is there anything you want to add now that you have had that further conversation there?

Ms Paul : No, that is fine. I was just looking at what is already public, and Mr Cook is just pointing out that there is something on the Department of Finance's website about the Functional and Efficiency Reviews. You may have seen that or you may not have. He was just drawing my attention to that public—

Senator O'NEILL: If you could table that, that would be helpful while we are waiting for the actual terms of reference to surface.

Ms Paul : Sure.

Senator O'NEILL: I understand there is a change in the structure of the department and a hiving off of child care to the Department of Social Services, which, as an educator, raises incredibly concerning issues for me. Regardless of that, can I ask why the department's higher education division is excluded from the review currently?

Ms Paul : Just on the first point in relation to being an educator, which of course I know, as I said to Senator Lines, we retain the responsibility for preschool and for early learning. So that is important to say.

Senator O'NEILL: I think a fair bit of education happens before you reach age four, and probably critical education.

Ms Paul : Anyway, I thought I had better clarify that. Sorry, you were asking about the review?

Senator O'NEILL: Yes. Why is higher education out of the review?

Ms Paul : That was a decision of government. These decisions have been taken in the contestability efficiency domain by government, I imagine. We would need to ask ministers, to be absolutely precise, but I presume it is because there are currently in front of parliament these significant reforms which would fundamentally change the nature of what we do if passed, and so perhaps the timing is not right to try to review something which could change.

Senator O'NEILL: So it is a little too chaotic in that space to undertake the review—

Ms Paul : I hate to say chaotic. Certainly, there are large changes mooted, as you know.

Senator O'NEILL: Turning to another element in the Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook, there are revised payments estimates for government and non-government schools, which are expected to increase by $313 million in 2014-15 and then $78 million over four years. Why is this?

Ms Paul : We can, of course, take this under outcome 2, but unless I am about to be corrected it is because these figures are based on actuals, and that updates both enrolments and the loading factors that are the payments. I am sure that if I am getting anything wrong then Mr Cook will correct me. That is what it is about. It is about having estimates updated by actuals.

Senator O'NEILL: Given that explanation, can I ask you to provide the revised enrolment projections over the forward estimates.

Ms Paul : We may be able to do that in outcome 2 for you, if you like.

Senator O'NEILL: I guess I am asking it now so that I can get a look at the information and then I might have some further questions when we get to outcome 2.

Ms Paul : Sure, if you like, but I do not know that we would have enrolment projections here now. No. We can do that under outcome 2 this afternoon.

Senator O'NEILL: If you can get some people to get it for you, and also for any period beyond—

CHAIR: Mr Cook, did you have something to add?

Ms Paul : Just to clarify, the very large difference is not necessarily enrolment, it is because the figures that we used in the modelling originally were 2011 figures which were grown out by indexation over a number of years. When we used the figures, we used 2013 actual data. So it is not as much enrolment; it is a projection of what we thought the characteristics of students would have been about three, four or five years ago. The big difference in the actual shift is not enrolment; it is from actually using demographic details of students as opposed to indexation projections. We can still provide you with the information. I am just clarifying that a very large proportion is actually—

Senator O'NEILL: The data is pretty different from what you expected, by the sounds of things. If we can get the projections of any period beyond that for which the enrolled projections are available—just extend it out as far as you can.

Mr Cook : I think we answered the question on notice about that last time. I will see if there is updated information.

Senator O'NEILL: Could I also ask for the provision of a breakdown of the revised consequential changes in the Commonwealth share of base funding that is referred to in MYEFO, page 47?

Mr Cook : We would have to take that on notice. That will require a bit of arithmetic to work that through. I can give you the actual numbers, in terms of differences between the states and the Commonwealth, but we will have to do some maths on the share.

Senator O'NEILL: A breakdown of that revised set of consequential changes.

Mr Cook : Yes, I can do that in outcome 2.

Senator KIM CARR: How many questions are outstanding?

Ms Paul : None, right now.

Senator KIM CARR: Can you tell me why such a large number of questions were not received by the committee until 9 February?

Ms Paul : I can certainly tell you that—because I looked at that too—it was basically because of the Christmas period. The change in machinery of government was really significant for us. It happened just before Christmas. Key personnel were away et cetera, so apologies for that. But there they are now—I do not think there is anything left over. Last time we got them all done and in by the due date.

Senator KIM CARR: Yes, the department has in the past had a very good record here.

Ms Paul : That is right. But it is not always that we go through such a significant machinery-of-government change right at that moment and, as I said, key personnel being a way over summer and so on.

Senator KIM CARR: Question on notice EDO 54315 is one where we sought advice on financial budget committed project funding. It was not answered in its entirety. Can the department complete an Excel spreadsheet, that I provided to the secretariat, regarding budget and actual spends for the program from each year 2011-12 to 2013-14 and budget and committed contractual spending by program each year 2014-15 to 2017-18? That is material I have had in the past from you.

Ms Paul : Is it? I will take that on notice. I am happy to have a look at it.

Senator KIM CARR: Would it be possible to get that spreadsheet completed by the dinner break this evening?

Ms Paul : I would doubt that very much indeed.

Senator KIM CARR: You doubt that?

Ms Paul : I doubt it. Not over all those years and everything, but I am happy to take it on notice.

Senator KIM CARR: What happens, Ms Paul, when we have long delays is that I get anxious about questions being taken on notice and not answered.

Ms Paul : We have answered everything, but this is a really complex thing you are seeking. We will do it as quickly as we can.

Senator KIM CARR: You have done it before, and I think the finance people know the format. It is not a particularly difficult task to undertake.

Ms Paul : We are happy to do it as quickly as we possibly can.

Senator KIM CARR: Thank you. Was there a problem, in the submitting of questions on notice, with a hold-up at the minister's office?

Ms Paul : Some questions on notice were in the minister's office because, as I said, key personnel were away. That includes the minister's office as well. Naturally, they were also affected by the machinery of government and so on.

Senator KIM CARR: Yes. It just so happened that a number of the questions that were delayed were questions that I asked. I am just wondering whether there is any pattern there, or was it just a coincidence that the people away were the ones directly related to the higher education program?

Ms Paul : There is no pattern there to do with your questions.

Senator KIM CARR: Were any of the answers changed in the minister's office?

Ms Paul : I do not think so. They are our answers, but I can take that on notice, if you like.

Senator KIM CARR: Could you? Question 392 regards contract description. You basically said to me, 'Read the website.' I think you would appreciate we do that.

Ms Paul : Sure.

Senator KIM CARR: I would hate to think that is becoming a pattern with the answers to questions, whereby we wanted an output or outcome from a contract. What possible basis would there be for the department simply to respond that we should read the website?

Ms Paul : I have not seen it yet. If your preference is for us to—even if it is on a website—extract it and put it into a form of answer, I am happy to note your preference.

Senator KIM CARR: That is not what I asked. I did not ask for stuff that is already on the website. I asked for an outcome. I am disappointed at the quality of the answer, is the proposition I am putting to you, Madam Secretary—because we can read a website.

Ms Paul : Sure.

Senator KIM CARR: I asked for an outcome of a particular contract.

Senator Birmingham: Senator, I have received many answers over the years referring me to websites, including the AusTender website on occasion. I do not think referral to where information is in the public domain is unusual. Departments and governments generally accept that sometimes, in asking questions, senators may not know where that information is already publicly available and so they steer them to the publically available information. Just like the spreadsheet you have given us—much of the information within it would already be publicly available, but you are asking the department to dedicate time and resources to complete that. It is something that Ms Paul has said they will take on notice and look at. I do not think it is incorrect—

Senator KIM CARR: And have provided—

Senator Birmingham: Sometimes it is helpful over the longer term, once you know where to find the information that is publicly available, you can find it yourself in a more timely manner rather than having to go through this process.

Senator KIM CARR: I appreciate your advice, Minister, but when I ask for a copy of a report I ask for a copy of a report. I should not be referred to the AusTender documents. We have had a long history here—over 20 years I have been able to share these matters in both government and opposition. I have also asked, Ms Paul, you would certify, departmental officials to answer questions even when we were in government.

I am concerned that a deterioration in the standard of answers provided—that may not be your problem. That is why I asked the question: 'Were these answers changed in the minister's office?' When I ask for a copy of a report I do not expect to be referred to the original tender notification on AusTender.

Ms Paul : We have answered the bit on outcomes and outputs, although probably not to your satisfaction. We did have a look at it and said it would be an unreasonable diversion of departmental resources. You are right, we have not provided the report, so I will take that piece away and have a look at how many of those have reports and whether they can be provided.

Senator KIM CARR: Thank you very much. I turn to another question about modelling. You will recall, Ms Paul, that on numerous occasions I have asked this of you, the secretary, and your officers what modelling you have undertaken for the higher education measures. You have, on numerous occasions—I can point to them—where you have basically said that it was part of some budget consideration. We made some calculations. Mr Griew, on other occasions has said they have not done the modelling, they have just checked out what other people have said. Answers of that type have been put to this committee.

I am surprised to read that the AAT, Mr Griew—I do not want to personalise this but I do want to indicate the officer who signed the documents—on behalf of the department prepared a written statement for a matter regarding an FOI request. Are you familiar with that written statement?

Ms Paul : No.

Senator KIM CARR: The statement Mr Griew provided was a discussion on a range of documents that the department actually had: question time briefs, hypothetical scenarios and a document providing assessment of the impact of deregulation on regional higher education.

Senator Birmingham: Could you table the statement, Senator Carr?

Senator KIM CARR: The statement by Mr Griew is before the Administrative Appeals Tribunal.

Senator O'SULLIVAN: Point of order, Chair. If we are to consider in context the questions to the minister and secretary and the answers to them, it would be useful if we had a copy of the document that the senator is referring to. I would like to make a request for Senator Carr to table the document.

CHAIR: It is not a point of order, but it is a fair request.

Senator KIM CARR: I am using the document. I will table it in due course. I am using the document at this time.

Ms Paul : Because I am not familiar with your references, we will probably need to refer this to outcome 3.

CHAIR: Are you able to at least give the secretary the chance to peruse the document so that she can respond appropriately to your questions?

Senator KIM CARR: I am using the document at the moment. Sorry, who is asking to peruse the document? Madam Secretary, you do not have a copy of the document; is that what you are saying?

Ms Paul : No, I do not.

Senator KIM CARR: All right. I will table that. You can go on to something else while I am doing that.

Senator O'NEILL: I want to go to the discretionary grant. I know that Senator Carr was asking questions on that. I want to take you to a couple of line items with regard to agriculture in education. I want to see if the data I have aligns with the schedule that you have in front of you with budgets of committed and not committed amounts. My question is about agriculture in education. There is $1 million in agriculture education but none committed.

Ms Paul : Sorry, what are you looking at?

Senator Birmingham: Is this the tabled list of grants under the return to order of the Senate?

Senator O'NEILL: This is FQ142615.

Ms Paul : Okay, yes. I have that.

Senator O'NEILL: It was proffered in response to question No. EDO543IS415.

Ms Paul : Yes, okay.

Senator O'NEILL: Can you just explain to me the line item 'agriculture in education'?

Mr Cook : Agriculture in education was a $2 million election commitment. It was about the development of resources to support learning and teaching for students around the importance of agriculture. I think Dr Atkins explained that we have contracted through Education Services Australia to begin that work. I understand that the first set of resources have already been provided. We are in the process now of finalising that contract in the next 12 months.

Ms Paul : I am just conscious that we are well into outcome 2 here rather than cross-portfolio. But that is a small matter.

CHAIR: Senator O'Neill, just for the sake of ensuring you get an adequate answer with the right people here, would you like to defer that? I know Senator Rhiannon has some questions for cross-portfolio.

Ms Paul : You have probably had the whole answer, but nonetheless I just wanted to mark that we are probably—

Senator O'NEILL: Okay. I am happy to come back to it.

Senator RHIANNON: Ms Paul, just further to a discussion we started earlier today when one of your colleagues was with you, we covered the objectives and she read out details about the research that had been undertaken. Could that document be tabled, please?

Ms Paul : Which details were those? Were those the objectives which we have already tabled—

Senator RHIANNON: No. The objectives, I understood, we had agreed to. I just wanted to clarify that you were also tabling the research that was undertaken. You said it was not quantitative—

Ms Paul : The market research?

Senator RHIANNON: Yes.

Ms Paul : We took that on notice for Senator Carr. That was the market research.

Senator RHIANNON: Will that be released today?

Ms Paul : I have taken it on notice.

Senator RHIANNON: It would obviously be useful for all of us to have it before outcome 3.

Ms Paul : Yes. I have taken that on notice. If we can do it before outcome 3 we will. I have taken it on notice and we will do our very best.

Senator O'NEILL: I am interested to find out the cost of the change of machinery of government that has happened since the early childhood section has been hived off to the Department of Social Services. I would like to know the decision making around that and the costs associated with the change.

Ms Paul : Obviously it was a government decision. I do not have the cost in front of me, but for the much, much larger change of the change of government, which meant my former, former department demerged in five directions, the costs were almost negligible because these days basically everything is electronic. The only things that you actually have to pay for are business cards. We went through that last time. This time it would be exactly the same except much, much smaller. There are probably a few costs in paying for the contractors that move people from building to building and that sort of thing, but that is it.

Senator O'NEILL: So are we looking at a matter of hundreds, thousands or hundreds of thousands of dollars?

Ms Paul : Probably hundreds.

Senator O'NEILL: Just hundreds?

Ms Paul : That is my recollection of the bigger machinery-of-government change last time.

Senator O'NEILL: I want to go to the decision making around that change, particularly in light of the nature of education. We have had K to 12. Increasingly over the years people have realised that some of the ideas about education and the segmentation of learning are retrograde in terms of the outcomes of education. What rationale, from an education point of view, allowed the education of zero to threes and zero to fours be hived off to DSS?

Senator Birmingham: Probably questions of that nature are best directed to the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, representing the Prime Minister, because he is responsible for the setting of ministerial structures and the overall setting of government structures.

Senator O'NEILL: This was a decision by the Prime Minister?

Senator Birmingham: Senator O'Neill, can I finish my answer? Yes, the Prime Minister takes responsibility for ministerial changes in the government and the responsibilities that flow from that. The Prime Minister made the decision to bring vocational education and training and skills back into the education portfolio to give it a dedicated ministry, which I am responsible for. The Prime Minister equally determined that early years learning, as Ms Paul has described before, would stay in the Department of Education but that the funding arrangements around childcare rebates, childcare benefits and those types of structures would be transferred to the Department of Social Services, who administer many such payments and arrangements for the government.

Ultimately this was all part, as the Prime Minister said at the time, of a decision to get the focus of government particularly on to jobs and families. The dedicated focus on vocational education and training is a central part of our job strategy—and it will feature in the Prime Minister's upcoming job statement, I am sure—and pursuing integrated policies around family support across the social services portfolio is, again, appropriate. It in no way changes the government's commitment to high education outcomes throughout people's lives. It simply reflects where the government sees appropriate that certain programs and functions are best managed. When it comes to the childcare rebate and childcare benefit, which are essentially family assistance payments to help people's participation in the workforce and so on, they are at the heart of a broad structure of family support payments. As you know, the government is going through a—

Senator O'NEILL: Long answer!

CHAIR: Minister Birmingham and Senator O'Neill, it being 11 o'clock the committee will now break for morning tea.

Pr oceedings suspended from 10:59 to 11:16

Senator O'NEILL: My question arises out of the discussion about the having-off of the education of children up to the age of four.

Ms Paul : Up to three, really.

Senator O'NEILL: It is a very significant learning period for children. Much of the literature in education, psychology and sociology emphasises the significance of that period for children's learning—not only from the perspective of impacting on outcomes but also from the perspectives of policy, decision-making and investment in learning. A dollar spent at that stage is a highly productive investment both for the community and the individuals in whom that investment is made. This hiving-off is quite a significant change. I do not know that the Australian people have come to realise that yet. Who is now looking after the education of children up to the age of three or four?

Ms Paul : I will just set the scene in a machinery-of-government sense. The only time I have ever known childcare to be neither in the health department or the community services department—or in this case the social services department—is in these recent years when it has been with education. There is a history of it being the other way.

Senator O'NEILL: Yes, enlightenment has occurred—and under conservative governments too.

Ms Paul : I think everybody agrees that this period from zero to three or four is a very important time. I think the minister answered the question from the perspective of the government's decision to have a focus on families in social services. This is a government decision which I cannot really comment on. I was not privy to it.

Senator O'NEILL: I can hear that the government has the money side of it covered. What I am asking is: who is looking after the education investment of Australia in children up to the age of four now? Federally, it is not with the department of education, it would seem. Is that correct?

Ms Paul : We are looking after some early education—preschool and the things around preschool. For example, the universal access national partnership is with us.

Senator O'NEILL: What ages is that for?

Ms Paul : That is particularly for four-year-olds—access to preschool. There is a broad landscape of people in Australia who are involved with children from zero to three: whether it is teachers and other educators in childcare centres or state governments and their commitments to preschool. There are a wide range of bodies responsible for supporting the learning of young kids before they get to school.

Senator O'NEILL: But, because of the change of government—and it was very clearly explained to us by Minister Birmingham that it was a decision by the Prime Minister—there is now no national oversight of the education of 0- to 3-year-olds and, predominantly, four-year-olds.

Ms Paul : No, I would not—

Senator O'NEILL: Does the department have a role in the education of zero-to-threes anymore?

Ms Paul : Certainly we care about the learning of all kids. In terms of formal responsibilities for who does which program, we have made sure that we are going to continue to sit on the Commonwealth-state liaison forums and so on that deal with all ages before school. That is really important to us for the very reasons that you named. Mr Cook may know of other liaison mechanisms. It is of course important for us keep in touch, and we always do. It is a bit like vocational education now coming back, you might say, into the department of education: naturally, when it was in the department of industry, and before that, under the former government, in innovation, we nonetheless kept up a close connection, as we are committed to do for our former colleagues now with social services.

Senator O'NEILL: But to be clear, at the moment there is no formal oversight or formal allocation of money for the federal education department to have oversight of the education of zero- to three/four-year-olds?

Ms Paul : We are responsible to four-year-olds through the commitment to preschool and, for example, the early languages—

Senator O'NEILL: But there is no formal overview by the department of education?

Ms Paul : From zero to three, which you might characterise more as a child care responsibility, is now with social services.

Senator O'NEILL: I do not think teachers would characterise it as a child care responsibility.

Ms Paul : Naturally we care about school readiness. While most school readiness, you might say, occurs in a formal or semiformal sense at age four, anything which touches on early learning we would have an interest in and we will keep up an interest in, but the programmatic separations are clear.

Senator O'NEILL: And is there a budget allocation to enable the department to do that?

Ms Paul : That would mainly be the universal access national partnership at the moment. There is no particular budget for learning from zero to three. The budget is CCB and CCR and associated programs. That is now with social services.

Senator O'NEILL: I need to make a distinction—and I am sure you are aware of this too, madam secretary—between school readiness and early learning and the education of young children. They are very, very different things.

Ms Paul : There were not particular moneys or programs aimed at educating zero-to-threes before, either. The main programs for those ages are, of course, the support to parents through child care benefit and child care rebate.

Senator O'NEILL: We are going to differ on that, because I think there was significant investment in teacher things. But that is not for a debate between you and me today. I think you have answered my question.

Senator Birmingham: Senator O'Neill, we can debate policy aspects on another day, if you like. You cannot take issue with the factual statement that Ms Paul just made, which was in terms of government programs that exist and government funding that exists. Before the machinery of government changes, before that shift, there were not particularly dedicated funded programs relating to educational aspects of that zero-to-three age cohort. In that sense, the department maintains a policy interest and maintains the engagement with the states and others through fora, as Ms Paul has explained and as Mr Cook could elaborate on if you want; but the substance of the changes that occurred with the machinery of government was in relation to the family support around child care, which is going back to how historically it has been more closely administered by the social services portfolio.

Senator O'NEILL: The quality framework is probably worth mentioning there, but anyway, let's move on. I am sure Senator Carr has some more questions.

Senator KIM CARR: Madam secretary, I was referring to the statement by Mr Robert Griew to the AAT outlining the existence of a series of documents within the department concerning higher education HELP debt, impact of deregulation on regional higher education, graduate modelling and documents on the assumptions underpinning the reduction in the Commonwealth government support programs and the deregulation of student fees. So there is a whole series of modelling documents, yet this committee has been advised on numerous occasions that the department has not undertaken modelling. I am just wondering how you reconcile statements made before the AAT with the statements made to this committee.

Ms Paul : I will say two things. I am advised by our legal advisers that the document which I have now been given, which I have not seen before—

Senator KIM CARR: This is in your name, I see—the secretary; you are the respondent.

Ms Paul : Probably. Anyway, what I want to draw to your attention is that I am advised that this matter is currently before the AAT. There is a practice direction from the AAT relating to the release from an implied undertaking. At 2.3 it says:

Breach of the implied undertaking may constitute a criminal offence under section 63(5) of the AAT Act …

Et cetera. I appreciate that we are in the Senate, but I thought I should mention those things.

Senator KIM CARR: You are not questioning parliamentary privilege, are you?

Ms Paul : Of course not, but I did want to make the point that usually we do not go to sub judice in issues here. At 2.2 says:

A party that obtains a document provided under compulsion in a proceeding or a person to whom the party gives such a document must not use the document for any purpose other than that for which it was given unless…

Et cetera—unless the tribunal gives leave, basically. It is unusual for us, so I just thought I would mention that. I had not appreciated that it was live when you—

Senator KIM CARR: There was a request made to table a document. I would not normally have bothered,. because the issue is not going to the case itself—

Ms Paul : Sure. I appreciate that.

Senator KIM CARR: My issue and, as I say, I would not have tabled the document if it had not been requested by the government—

CHAIR: Not by the government—by the committee.

Senator KIM CARR: It was not by the committee. There was no meeting of the committee. There was no decision of the committee. Government senators requested the document.

Senator Birmingham: I requested the document because you were quoting from it, Senator Carr.

Senator KIM CARR: I was actually summarising it, but that is neither here nor there. The question I am putting to you, Ms Paul, goes to the issue of whether or not this committee has been misled by the department on regular occasions. In answer to 355, for instance, on the question of modelling, there are repeated references to modelling through the Hansard. It is my contention, Ms Paul, that the department has sought to convey the impression that you did not undertake modelling. It would be apparent to me from the statement that Mr Griew has made that extensive modelling has been undertaken. I am wondering how you reconcile the evidence presented to the AAT with the statements made by officers and answers to questions concerning modelling.

Ms Paul : I am happy to give you my own undertaking that I will have a look at this, on notice. I am not quite sure of the status of this document, but nonetheless I will take more broadly on notice, if that may be more appropriate, to review our previous evidence and to correct anything that might need correcting. I am not saying I am thinking it will; I am just saying that I am giving you a genuine undertaking.

Senator KIM CARR: I appreciate that. It may well be that you come back to me and say, 'You've misunderstood my answers.' I can expect that that is what you will say. But I am also putting to you that by any fair reading of your answers an impression was created that modelling had not been done by the department. I think—and I am putting it to you—that that is a serious discrepancy in the evidence that has now been presented to a judicial body, which has not been presented to the parliament when numerous requests have been made for that material. Putting aside the sub judice issue, because I am not going to the case itself—and I was not even aware of the status of the particular—

Ms Paul : Neither was I.

Senator KIM CARR: I am only interested in the facts, as presented in this statement by a senior education officer, which appear to me to be contrary to the statements made repeatedly to parliamentary committees. I am asking: can you explain the difference?

Ms Paul : That is quite a significant issue you are raising there. My undertaking is to give you a personal undertaking that I will review on notice our former evidence. This document has a status that, perhaps, we can leave aside for the moment, but nonetheless I am quite happy to take—

Senator KIM CARR: It has been legitimately tabled.

Ms Paul : I will give you my commitment of a personal perusal.

Senator KIM CARR: Sure. The document has been legitimately tabled. As far as I am concerned, parliamentary privilege covers the tabling of the document. That is an entirely separate matter. The fact remains you are obviously aware of this case, and I have now drawn to your attention the statement by a senior officer of the department. I want to draw your attention to a couple of other contract matters. There is contract number CN2855672.

Ms Paul : I am not familiar with it. Do you know—

Senator KIM CARR: I know that, but you will have an officer here—the finance officer, presumably—who will have copies of that.

Ms Paul : Can you tell me what the heading is?

Senator KIM CARR: Do you want me to go through that again? CN—

Senator Birmingham: Is there a title for it at all?

Senator KIM CARR: Well, this is part of the problem. Its category is: management support services. The descriptor is: review policy.

Ms Paul : Who is the company?

Senator KIM CARR: I presume it is limited tender.

Ms Paul : Why don't I take it on notice?

Senator KIM CARR: PhillipsKPA. I am asking you not to take it on notice because the CFO should be able to tell us what the money has been spent on. It is an AusTender document.

Ms Paul : If it is PhillipsKPA, as you and I both know, it is probably to do with higher education. If we cannot rustle it up here, given that we do not want to waste any of your time, why don't we find out what it was by the time we get to outcome three?

Senator KIM CARR: It is for $12,000. I am just wondering what the policy review is that this contractor is undertaking.

Ms Paul : I do not know off hand, I am sorry. But the higher ed folk can find out for us.

Senator KIM CARR: The next one is $174,400 for the evaluation of the 2014 strategic priority projects. It was an open tender: RMIT; CN2835442. What is that for?

Ms Paul : I do not know.

Senator KIM CARR: It is an education executive—that is the division.

Ms Paul : Executive? That is me and my nearest and dearest colleagues, so I am not sure—

Senator KIM CARR: That is a perfectly legitimate cross-portfolio issue then.

Ms Paul : Quite right. But I think I am just going to have to take it on notice.

Senator KIM CARR: Is the finance officer here?

Ms Paul : Yes, but it is a long list. We may just not be able to get to it now. We will see if we can. What does work well, actually, if you want to think about—and I think I said this last time—you may want to give us some of these in advance. There are so many on AusTender at any given point in time. We have done that in the past.

Ms Monkley : I do not have details of that contract in front of me.

Senator KIM CARR: Do you want the number again?

Ms Monkley : If you can, please.

Senator KIM CARR: CN2835442.

Ms Monkley : As Ms Paul has indicated—

Ms Paul : Ms Monkley has a table that is very lengthy. I think we should probably take it on notice. I do not even know which program it is for—whether it is higher ed or schools, or something for the department itself.

Senator KIM CARR: This is for the education executive.

Ms Paul : That is just to me. It might even be for the department itself, but I do not know.

Senator KIM CARR: There is another one for the education executive: impact analysis report for the education services overseas; $57,478; CN2797872. What is a that one for?

Ms Paul : I do not know. But we would definitely be able to answer that in outcome three, because that, obviously, is international ed. I do not know what it was for.

Senator KIM CARR: It is education executive.

Ms Paul : Yes. I do not know why it is saying education executive. We will answer that, too. But it is clearly out of international ed by the title.

Senator KIM CARR: I presume this is the 'research, benchmark, test, evaluate higher education communication': $330,000. Is that one we referred to earlier?

Ms Paul : Yes, it is.

Senator KIM CARR: Taylor Nelson?

Ms Paul : That sounds like it is the evaluation. Yes, we would have mentioned it. I think we mentioned Taylor Nelson, so I will just confirm that. But it sounds like it is the evaluation study.

Senator RHIANNON: Did you use any other metrics to determine the reach of your advertising campaign, and could you outline what measurement standards you used? Did it include emails received about the issue? Was it the number of visits to the website or specific parts of the website. I am interested in what metrics you used post the campaign.

Ms Paul : Post the campaign?

Senator RHIANNON: During the campaign or post the campaign.

Ms Paul : I think we have answered that a couple of times—which is that it goes to the formal evaluation.

Senator RHIANNON: I have been out of the room a couple of times and may have missed it—it is the specific metrics.

Ms Paul : How many hits were there and that sort of thing?

Senator RHIANNON: Before we get to that, what did you actually use? Was it the number of emails you received, the number of visits to the website or to a specific part of the website? What measurement standards have you used?

Ms Paul : I think we may have taken this on notice, but I am not sure. We would track how many hits there have been to the website. We mentioned how many calls. We certainly do track contacts once a campaign has begun. We can take that on notice for you.

Senator RHIANNON: The question was—and I would expect that you would have this, because I understand you would have to sign off on it—what are the different measurement standards? I appreciate that you are taking on notice the matter of finding the quantitative data for those measurement standards, but I am trying to understand what the measurement standards are.

Ms Paul : Sorry, I do not understand the question.

Senator RHIANNON: What measurements you take to determine the reach of your advertising campaign?

Ms Paul : I see.

Senator RHIANNON: That was my original question.

Ms Paul : So, in other words, more or less how many people it has reached.

Senator RHIANNON: No, it is actually the measurement standard. That is why I gave you the example of the number of emails you have received and the number of hits for your website. Are they some of the metrics?

Ms Paul : Yes.

Senator RHIANNON: Are there other metrics?

Ms Paul : There would be a range of metrics. I am quite happy to take on notice the full run of this conversation and look at what we have been measuring and what the relevant benchmarks might be. I may be misunderstanding you a bit. But, anyway, it strikes me that there are probably two components. One is: what is the level of activity? Which is what I was talking about a minute ago. Secondly, what sort of things will an evaluator—because that is outsourced—look for. I think you were also asking if there are certain benchmarks. Did you mean industry benchmarks, or—

Senator RHIANNON: No. I understand that you are taking the quantitative data on notice.

Ms Paul : Yes.

Senator RHIANNON: So we have agreed to that. I would understand that you would have to sign off on what is being evaluated so you get that quantitative data. Going through some examples, are you requesting that records are kept of the number of email inquiries about this issue, following the advertising campaign? Is that one of your metrics?

Ms Paul : Okay. I am not sure about email. Certainly we know how many hits et cetera but I am not sure about email. Let me take that on notice. Now I understand what you are getting at.

Senator RHIANNON: Again, I would have thought that you would have to sign off on how it is going to be evaluated. Do you sign off on that?

Ms Paul : Not necessarily. My formal sign off is quite particular. That goes to the content of the paid campaign. So that comes earlier. It would not have necessarily been me who said 'Let's track emails et cetera,' but I am sure it is being done, and I am happy to take it on notice.

Senator RHIANNON: But, again, the question was about the form that the evaluation takes. So you do not sign off on, 'The evaluation will take this form and these are the metrics we are going to track and report back to you and the minister'?

Ms Paul : I personally have not signed off on the contract with the evaluator, but someone will have, and I can find out who that was. They will, when we contracted with an evaluator, have specified what is required to be evaluated. So, I am quite happy to take that on notice for you. I hope that gets a bit closer to it.

Senator RHIANNON: When did the evaluation of the campaign start? In relation to the advertising, it starts and the public starts seeing it. How long after that do you start your evaluation?

Ms Paul : I think Ms Gleeson answered that, and she can answer it again, if you like. But I think she answered it to you, and that was that it has been in two stages. There is an evaluation that is an outsourced evaluation which is being undertaken now and has not finished. I think either Ms Gleeson had the date that that started or took it on notice. Then Ms Gleeson said there was a top-line evaluation, which does not go into as much detail. But she has actually put on record twice now what the findings were. I am happy to do it again, if you like. Do you want us to go through again what those dates are and so on?

Senator RHIANNON: I must have missed it. So, you spelt out the two. I can go back and look at Hansard.

Ms Paul : Yes, we did.

Senator RHIANNON: While Ms Gleeson is at the table, just to clarify, you did cover this somewhat this morning. But I just did want to double-check: it is before the advertising campaign starts that you do your research. What form does that research take? Is it focus groups?

Ms Paul : The market research undertaken for this campaign is exactly the same as for any campaign, and, yes, it usually will include focus groups and so on. I am sure Ms Gleeson can expand on that if possible.

Senator RHIANNON: With the focus groups, can you quantify how many, where and the number?

Ms Paul : We are going to do that. We took it on notice for Senator Carr.

Senator RHIANNON: What other forms did the research take? Did it include online surveys?

Ms Gleeson : Correct, and for the benchmarking tracking and evaluation research it will be and has been a mix of online and telephone surveys used to conduct that research. The focus groups were in relation to the developmental research and also in terms of the concept and refinement test and research.

Senator RHIANNON: Did I understand correctly that there are four focus groups, an online survey and a phone survey?

Ms Gleeson : There are four different types of research that have been undertaken or are underway to inform and evaluate the 2014-15 Higher Education Communication Campaign.

Senator RHIANNON: You said 'underway'. What was done prior to the campaign starting and what was done once the campaign started?

Ms Paul : I think we have taken on notice to say how many focus groups and where, but if there were things other than focus groups, Ms Gleeson can go to that.

Senator RHIANNON: You said 'four'. Can you just—

Ms Gleeson : I said the four areas of research are developmental research—

Senator RHIANNON: What would the lay person call that?

Ms Gleeson : That was the research that was conducted prior to any of the campaign being developed or considered. So that was the initial—

Senator RHIANNON: So, when you say 'developmental research', does that mean focus groups?

Ms Gleeson : That was part of it—

Senator RHIANNON: And what else?

Ms Gleeson : And there was also an online survey.

Senator RHIANNON: And you mentioned phone surveys. Were there phone surveys as well?

Ms Gleeson : I am just having a look to make sure I reflect the correct methodology.

Ms Paul : Do you want us to take it on notice?

Senator RHIANNON: No, because it leads on to my next question.

Ms Paul : We will keep going.

Senator RHIANNON: It sounds like it is there because it was mentioned that there were four, so I am assuming that it must be in the paper somewhere.

Senator Birmingham: I would have thought it possible that the officers from outcome 3 would have a greater familiarity with some of this information.

Ms Paul : We are also talking about two different things. We have been talking about—quite rightly, because you have asked about two—the market research done before the campaign was developed and the evaluation research done after.

Senator RHIANNON: But I am trying to work through it very systematically, to be fair. So, to repeat the question—

Ms Gleeson : The methodology for the developmental research was a mix of focus groups and an online questionnaire.

Senator RHIANNON: For the focus groups, you understand you will give us the quantitative data there.

Ms Gleeson : Correct.

Senator RHIANNON: For the online survey, can you provide the quantitative data?

Ms Gleeson : We will do that. We can take that on notice.

Senator RHIANNON: You have or you will?

Ms Gleeson : We can take that on notice.

Senator RHIANNON: Good. Can you supply the questions that were asked; what reach you expected to get, that you were told you would get by the company; what the company was—

Ms Paul : It was ORIMA Research.

Senator RHIANNON: thank you—who the company was; and what the response was.

Ms Paul : Sure. Yes, we can take that on notice.

Senator RHIANNON: Okay. So, beforehand, the development work is focus groups and an online survey. The advertising campaign starts—

Ms Gleeson : No, prior to the campaign commencing, there was also refinement and concept testing conducted.

Senator RHIANNON: Prior to the campaign starting. What form did that take?

Ms Gleeson : That informed creative concepts and campaign messaging, and the form that took was focus groups.

Senator RHIANNON: Focus groups. Anything else?

Ms Gleeson : No, just focus groups.

Senator RHIANNON: Again, could you take on notice, please, to provide the number of focus groups; the number of people who attended the focus groups; where they were held; who the company was; what your expectation was, what you were told attendance would be; and how many did attend.

Ms Gleeson : Of course.

Senator RHIANNON: Okay. That was creative concepts. Thank you for that one; I had missed that. So now we are up to the advertising. How do you evaluate that? What form did the evaluation take?

Ms Gleeson : There are three different types of research that are conducted in terms of the implementation of a campaign. It is referred to and known as benchmarking, tracking and evaluation research.

Senator RHIANNON: Can you spell those out? You can see what I am getting at. I am happy to spell the questions out, but I am just trying to understand.

Ms Gleeson : There are three parts to the research in terms of the implementation of the campaign. Prior to the commencement of the campaign, the expert company that we contracted benchmarks levels of awareness relative to the campaign objectives; in the course of the actual campaign being implemented, the company tracks results or tests how audiences are reacting to, interpreting, the materials that are being implemented as part of the campaign; and then both of those first two parts of the research are rolled into the evaluation research, where further analysis is done in terms of testing audiences, particularly the target audiences for the campaign, about levels of awareness and so on.

Senator RHIANNON: So, in the evaluation, we have benchmarking and tracking. What form do they take? Is it focus groups, online surveys? Are any of the people the same people you may have been using in the creative concept stage? Again, I am trying to understand the form that that benchmarking takes.

Ms Gleeson : There was a mix of online and telephone surveys used as this part of the research—the benchmarking, tracking and evaluation research. It is a different company undertaking this research to that which undertook the developmental research and the concept and refinement research.

Senator RHIANNON: So the same company does the benchmarking and tracking?

Ms Gleeson : Correct.

Senator RHIANNON: They do not do any focus groups?

Ms Gleeson : Not that I have got here in front of me.

Senator RHIANNON: They rely on online and phone surveys?

Ms Gleeson : Correct.

Senator RHIANNON: Can you take it on notice? If you had the figures, it would be wonderful.

Ms Gleeson : Yes, definitely.

Senator RHIANNON: If you had the figures now is what I meant.

Ms Gleeson : I would prefer to take that on notice.

Senator RHIANNON: Okay. Again, the questions there, for both sections, are: how many people were involved in the surveys; what was the reach of the surveys; how many people did the company commit to undertaking research with; and how many actually responded to the online and phone surveys?

Ms Gleeson : Will do.

Senator RHIANNON: That is benchmarking. Tracking: is it just online and phone surveys again?

Ms Gleeson : Correct. When I referred to benchmarking, tracking and research in terms of describing the mix of online and telephone surveys, that is the methodology used across all three of those areas of research.

Senator RHIANNON: I heard two different things. I imagine that was me mishearing it. I thought at one point you said the benchmarking and tracking were what informed the evaluation.

Ms Gleeson : That is right. It is all part of—

Senator RHIANNON: I appreciate that. So the evaluation does not have separate—I just have to get these questions on notice down. I come from New South Wales, and, if you did not pin the questions down, it was a great way of avoiding taking questions on notice!

Ms Gleeson : Sure.

Senator RHIANNON: So, is the evaluation informed by the benchmark and tracking online and phone surveys, or does it have its own separate online and phone surveys?

Ms Gleeson : It has its own separate—

Senator RHIANNON: Okay, great.

Ms Gleeson : The research company approaches different members of the public, being representative of target audience and members of the general public. So they reach out to different groups of people through the methodology of online and telephone surveys for each of those three parts of that final part of the research.

Senator RHIANNON: So for each of those three sections you are taking on notice the quantitative data for the online surveys and phone surveys?

Ms Gleeson : Correct.

Senator RHIANNON: And did I understand that you just said that they have a way of ensuring different people are involved? So we have six things there: three lots of online surveys and three phone survey, right?

Ms Gleeson : Correct.

Senator RHIANNON: Do they ensure that different people are involved in each one of those?

Ms Gleeson : That is my understanding. It is one of the reasons why we contract these kinds of companies through the Department of Finance's multi-use list for communication companies, because they have met certain criterion and thresholds in knowing their business in terms of research work.

Senator RHIANNON: So when you say 'it is my understanding' do you need to take that on notice and determine that that is the case?

Ms Gleeson : I am happy to take that on notice and provide a written response.

Senator RHIANNON: Thank you. Now you have just made reference to other campaigns where similar work is done.

CHAIR: Such as the Gonski campaign.

Senator RHIANNON: Is the level of this research—both the developmental research and then this evaluation research—similar to what other campaigns engage in?

Ms Gleeson : It is.

Senator RHIANNON: So within a ball park of 10 per cent?

Ms Paul : I do not know how we could measure that. There are different—

Senator RHIANNON: I know. I am not asking you to take it on notice but I am asking you to give a fair answer.

Ms Paul : Sure. As I said before, campaigns are very different in terms of their size. The schools one was 21 million under the former government et cetera. But, basically, they always follow the same processes—at least in my experience, although Ms Gleeson may be more experienced! And those are the processes that have been described by Ms Gleeson. She quite rightly mentioned the multi-use panel that the Department of Finance holds. That is actually where we have drawn from—kind of forever, as far as I know, relatively speaking—for all these types of companies for any campaign over the years. It is really the same—it is a normal process, basically.

Senator RHIANNON: Thank you for that. I think you did say it earlier but I did want to check the date—I could not find it in my notes—the advertising campaign has ended?

Ms Gleeson : Correct.

Senator RHIANNON: What was the date please?

Ms Gleeson : It was 14 February.

Senator RHIANNON: Is the evaluation ongoing?

Ms Gleeson : It is currently underway.

Senator RHIANNON: So is it that the tracking and the benchmarking are still being done with the online surveys and phone surveys? Or are they writing it up? What stage are they at?

Ms Gleeson : My understanding with the online telephone surveys—because it has not been very long since the campaign was completed—is that the evaluation part of the final part of research is underway.

Senator RHIANNON: And when will the online surveys and the phone surveys finish? And when will the report be handed to you?

Ms Gleeson : I will have to take that on notice.

Ms Paul : It is probably up to the company.

Senator RHIANNON: Is it up to the company—but surely you give them a date when you want the report by?

Ms Paul : We may have—let us take that on notice.

Senator RHIANNON: But isn't that what you would sign off on?

Ms Paul : As I said, I do not think I have signed off on this. But, yes, we probably have signed off on a report date, I should imagine. We will get that for you. Unless you have it now?

Ms Gleeson : I do not.

Ms Paul : Okay.

Ms Gleeson : It is a matter of weeks. It will depend on the analytics and the analysis to be undertaken.

Senator RHIANNON: And again, I thought you would at least be able to give us an approximation, because you have said how the form this has taken is similar to what has happened before. So, if that is the case, you surely would know how long before you get your—

Senator Birmingham: As Lisa just said, it is probably a matter of weeks.

Senator RHIANNON: Yes, but I had to draw that out—

Senator Birmingham: Well you have it now, Senator Rhiannon, so let's move on.

Senator RHIANNON: I thought we might be able to get some details.

Ms Paul : We did earlier give you the top line results from the previous top line evaluation, I think. If you want them again we can give them to you again.

Senator RHIANNON: All is good.

Senator RUSTON: Could I just seek a couple of points of clarity?

CHAIR: Certainly, Senator Ruston.

Senator RUSTON: Earlier this morning Senator Carr was questioning you about the details of the campaign in relation to providing information to the public on the higher education reforms. Did you say that, as part of the money that was used in relation to the website call centre, $500,000 was applied to that area? Can you just explain to me what that $500,000 was actually used for—the broader things that were involved in it?

Ms Paul : We actually have not used it particularly. That was the amount budgeted for website development but, as it happens, we have been able to do the website development in-house or at least through the shared services centre from which we purchase corporate services in many areas so that budgeted amount will not end up being used fully. I think we said that a small amount might have been, but basically we have been able to do it more cost-efficiently by doing it in-house, which is normal for any website that is developed.

Senator O'NEILL: I think you took on notice to find the cost centre against which that was happening in terms of in-house expenditure—

Senator RUSTON: At no time was there ever any suggestion that the entire $500,000 was spent against the call centre?

Ms Paul : No, not at all. In fact, I think we were absolutely clear that the $500,000 was the budgeted amount but in fact we have not needed to use it. We have already identified that there is already around $5 million unspent from the $14 million approved for the overall campaign.

Senator RUSTON: So if a senator in this hearing chose to go out at morning tea time and issue a press release along the lines of 'Government's $500,000 higher education call centre a flop' that states:

Commenting on revelations today that the Federal Department of Education budgeted $500,000 for a higher education information hotline that received only 135 calls … this equates to $3700 per phone call received.

That would be a misleading statement to put out into the public.

Ms Paul : Yes. I have not seen it, but that is not true,, because we have not spent it. You certainly cannot make an equation like that. The money just has not been spent. We said we have been using a call centre that has always been there for higher ed and we had quite a long piece of evidence saying that the payment would be on the basis of volume. If the volume is below the budgeted amount, the payment would be well below. There is absolutely no way that we have spent $500,000. That is just what was allowed for.

Senator RUSTON: Perhaps I need to ask that senator to retract the press release that was released at morning tea time.

Senator O'NEILL: Can I ask a follow-up question in light of the senator's comments there?

CHAIR: Sorry, Senator O'Sullivan actually got the call first.

Senator O'SULLIVAN: My question is again in the macro context of the advertising. Do you believe that the decision-making process of potential students from 2014—those who may have been considering pursuing higher education at universities—was affected by the campaign? Did potential university applicants make a decision not to pursue that because of fear or whatever may have influenced them in their decision-making process?

Ms Paul : What we know so far is what Ms Gleeson set out before, which is the top-line results from the first evaluation of I think the first round. If you want to go to them again, they did find some positive change in people's understandings. Ms Gleeson read that out before.

Senator O'SULLIVAN: Do you have any figures? I am sorry I was not here.

Ms Paul : That is fine. We will just go through the top-line results, for your information.

Ms Gleeson : Preliminary indicative results of research show: some decreases in the prevalence of myths and misconceptions about the higher education system; slight increases in awareness of the reforms; campaign activity appears to be positively correlated to a correction in audiences' misconceptions of the reforms; an increased awareness of government support for higher education and the mechanisms that will remain in place into the future; and some increases in perceptions that the reforms will be beneficial to Australia.

Senator Birmingham: Senator O'Sullivan, certainly a couple of those elements—improvements in terms of a reduction in misconceptions and in people's understanding that there would be potential for fee deferral through the income contingent loan type scheme we have—are very important outcomes. They, we trust, would have helped people who may have been under a misunderstanding late last year, or during the course of last year, that, in fact, they could apply and could accept a place at university this year—and, indeed, into the future, should the government's reform package be passed—without facing any up-front fees.

Senator O'SULLIVAN: That probably plays to a part of my question. I think that fair-minded Australians found the scare campaign—political or otherwise—to be very irresponsible. So I could perhaps put the question more pointedly—and we may not have any quantitative evidence of this. Would it be fair to say that some young Australians did go ahead and engage in applying to go to higher education as a result of fears that they may have developed during the scare campaign, which has allowed them to go on and take the opportunity?

Senator Birmingham: Again, for consistency in the way we have handled these things, if we want to get into details around university applications and acceptances, we should probably do that in outcome 3, but, in a general sense, I am pleased to say that university applications and university acceptances have held up. The scare campaign waged by the Labor Party, the Greens, the NTEU, GetUp! and a whole range of others has not worked.

Senator O'NEILL : A point of order, Chair. The minister's comments are highly political—

CHAIR: Sorry, Senator O'Neill, there is no point of order—

Senator Birmingham: Welcome to parliament, Senator O'Neill!

Senator O'NEILL : Yes, there are scare tactics, and $100,000 degrees are a reality.

CHAIR: especially after this morning's shenanigans by your own colleagues. Please do not continue to put on the record your innumerate response to the higher education reforms. Minister.

Senator Birmingham: Thank you. As I was saying to Senator O'Sullivan, thankfully, that scare campaign waged by Mr Shorten and others implying that there would be some up-front fees that students would face appears not to have succeeded. Pleasingly, the research that Ms Gleeson has referred to in relation to the government's campaign appears to demonstrate that that helped to allay concerns and, hopefully, helped the students—

Senator O'NEILL : It is a pity the legislation did not allay concerns.

Senator Birmingham: and their families in making sensible decisions. Senator O'Neill, I do not interrupt you; I would appreciate it if you did not interrupt me.

Senator O'NEILL : That is not true, Senator. That is not true.

CHAIR: Please put your comments through the chair, Senator O'Neill and Minister.

Senator Birmingham: Thank you. I was going to invite Senator Rhiannon to respond to Senator Ruston before and correct the record around her misleading media release, but I see she has—

Senator RUSTON: She is just outside the room, Senator, so I am sure she will be back shortly.

CHAIR: Are there any further questions?

Senator O'NEILL : Yes. Senator Ruston was conflating a couple of different items in her commentary there about the website development of $1.3 million—and some questions around that—and the contact centre support. I want to make sure that it is really clear. The contact centre support allocation of funding was $500,000, which must have been determined by some research. To allocate $2.3 million to creative development, I am sure, would have come from some decision making that was undertaken. Allocating $500,000 for contact centre support for all these students who you claim were incredibly anxious as a result of the campaign that has been waged resulted in a mere 134 interactions. How could it be that the research commissioned at a cost of $800,000—and undertaken over quite a long period of time, which you indicated to us earlier—led the department to seek an allocation of half a million dollars for a call centre that has generated a call response of 136 calls? Clearly, that is pretty bad planning by the government and a complete misreading of the level of alarm out in the community with only 136 calls to a nationally established call centre on the higher ed reform.

Ms Paul : I would take issue with how you have described that, obviously. We would have put aside, out of the amount allocated for the total campaign, the absolute upper limit of what we thought might happen. For the call centre and the website—as I have described before this morning at some length—we would have budgeted on the basis that we might have had to have outsourced support et cetera. In the end, we have actually used pre-existing services. We have only talked about the numbers of calls, but we do have, of course, metrics on the numbers of people that have been to the website et cetera. The calls have been the smallest part, which is interesting. Clearly, prospective students—not surprisingly—are so web enabled that those are the largest parts. We were delighted that, in the end, we did not have to spend that $500,000, or indeed the $1.3 million set aside for the website development, because we were able to do all of that in-house or through our existing arrangement with the shared services centre.

Senator Birmingham: In addition to the prudent budgeting that Ms Paul has described, if the content of the campaign and the content of the creative elements of the campaign that was developed is clear and allays people's concerns, then there is no need for them to pick the phone up. So I am very pleased there has been a positive change in public impressions, as Ms Gleeson has outlined, and, clearly, that has ensured—

Senator O'NEILL : Thank you, Senator.

Senator Birmingham: Senator O'Neill, I am grateful for you thanks, but perhaps not giving it to me mid-sentence would be appreciated.

Senator O'NEILL : The sentences might help—

CHAIR: Senator O'Neill, please let the minister complete his answer.

Senator Birmingham: Senator O'Neill, I think it is a testament to the success of the campaign that we have that positive feedback that public perceptions have changed and, indeed, that people's concerns were allayed as a result of seeing the campaign material, looking at the information on the internet and looking at other pieces of information related to the campaign without needing to make phone calls. It is good news that the costs fully budgeted for have not needed to be utilised.

Ms Paul : Just to be clear, the campaign, which I certified, particularly drew people towards the website. In a short campaign of two weeks and two weeks, I think, over summer, we have had hundreds and hundreds of thousands of views on the website. We have had almost 4 million people reached through Facebook—the campaign has; I should not say 'we'—and so on. There are two things that we are talking about now: what were the main media that reached people—the campaign led people towards a website, and, not surprisingly, prospective students are going to go towards Facebook et cetera as well and probably less towards calls. The second point we are making is that, even though we had budgeted certain amounts for calls and a website, we were able to support that in-house. And, at any rate, for the calls, we would only pay for what was used. It is not as if there was any inefficiency with taxpayers' money in that regard. We would only pay these people when they were actually used.

Senator Birmingham: Before Senator Rhiannon leaves the room—

Senator O'NEILL : She has gone.

Senator Birmingham: Senator Rhiannon, you might like to step back in for this, because I am advised that the expenditure to date for the call centre is $6,179. So, Senator Rhiannon, I look forward to you putting out a new press release correcting the record in relation the claims you have made.

Senator RHIANNON: Thank you, Chair, could—

CHAIR: Senator O'Neill, have you finished your questions? Sorry, they are in the middle of an exchange.

Senator RHIANNON: Yes, when it is finished.

Senator O'NEILL : I just wanted to indicate that I think that most people managing their budget would find it very alarming that the minister considered it prudent to overestimate the cost of that contact centre by the proportion that he has—

Senator Birmingham: This is the problem with the Labor Party's approach to budgeting, Senator O'Neill. You always like to underestimate the cost and then have budget blow-out.

Senator O'NEILL : It is a significant—

Senator Birmingham: We prefer to overestimate the cost and come in under.

CHAIR: Minister, that is not helpful.

Senator O'NEILL : It is still completely—

Senator Birmingham: That is how the country got into so much debt in the first place.

Senator O'NEILL : The next time the senator interrupts me, I will remind him of that little interjection. There is an incredible gap, and I think that it feeds into the sense that the government is not properly informed about many, many elements of its policy.

CHAIR: Commentary is finished. Senator Rhiannon, I think you have a question.

Senator RHIANNON: Minister, would you be willing to correct the incorrect statement that you have just given, considering that our comment in the media release on the figures that were given earlier said 'if that half million dollars was what was spent and the result was 135 calls'. It was quite clear. There was no inaccuracy there at all, so could you correct the record?

Senator Birmingham: If it sounds like a dog whistle, if it looks like a dog whistle, it probably is a dog whistle. That is what you are engaging in. You indeed did your extrapolation there to $3,700 per phone call. Of course, it turns out that not even twice that amount has been expended in total.

Senator RHIANNON: Would it be more useful for the public for you to actually provide much more detail, because at the moment we are not—

Senator Birmingham: We just did. Perhaps you should not be in such undue haste to rush your press releases out.

Senator RHIANNON: The most you have come forward with this morning is 135 calls. Surely that is embarrassing for you that that is—

Senator Birmingham: No, that is great news.

Senator RHIANNON: A hundred and thirty-five across this whole country with more than one million students to go to our universities, and you get 135 calls and are proud of it?

Senator Birmingham: The campaign material has been so successful that students were able to get their answers from the internet, from the ads that were run or from the campaign literature.

Senator RHIANNON: Can you back that up with details?

Ms Paul : Yes, we just did. I think you were out of the room though. The campaign leads people towards the website, as you probably know. So far in what is a short campaign there have been hundreds of thousands of page views. There have been almost four million people reached through Facebook and so on. So it is not a surprise that, given the audience of prospective students we are talking about, calls would be the least amount. We were clear in evidence this morning, I would say. We were talking about budgeted figures. We were not talking about expended figures. We did mention some committed figures, so it is not even spent yet but committed. The committed figure for the contact centre to date is $6,179.

Senator RUSTON: I would like to draw the attention of the committee and the room to the headline of the press release that says 'Government's $500,000 higher education call centre a flop'. I do not see the word 'if' used anywhere in that headline.

Senator RHIANNON: It is really excellent to have a media release read out, so thank you very much.

Senator Birmingham: Even if it is completely inaccurate.

Senator RHIANNON: No, it is not completely inaccurate, and you still have not proved that. There was that if there, and we have been able to push you on data. It is now a quarter past 12. We started at nine, and you have been so short on data. Ms Paul, with regard to the $4 million—

Senator Birmingham: Please. In all of these hearings there are often detailed figures that have to be sought on notice. We have managed to turn this one around relatively quickly. I am pleased about that because it has highlighted the fact that you, rather than waiting to get the facts, jumped to conclusions, and those conclusions have been seen to be inaccurate.

Ms Paul : To clarify the evidence to date: we were clear that these were budgeted figures. We were also clear that they had not been committed or spent. We were clear that there was at least $5 million uncommitted at the moment and we were clear that, while we had allowed for a contact centre and website to be outsourced, we actually did those things in house.

Senator Birmingham: To be clear: the success of this campaign is judged not on the number of phone calls received from people who still have doubts. The success is judged on whether or not misconceptions in the public have been corrected and particularly were corrected during the crucial period of people making application for or considering offers of university places. I am very pleased that the evidence demonstrates that there was an improvement in those understandings by students and their families, and I trust that had a positive impact on the acceptances of university places this year.

Senator O'NEILL: Have you done any research into the impact of legislation being defeated in providing some—

CHAIR: Let the minister finish, please.

Senator O'SULLIVAN: It is quite rude.

Senator RHIANNON: Minister, you have just said the success is judged on whether misconceptions have been corrected. I apologise that I was out of the room when the figures were given. We have just had a figure given here of 4 million with regard to Facebook?

Ms Paul : That is just the figure to date on people reached through Facebook, which is 3,800,000.

Senator RHIANNON: When you say 'reached', we know there are Facebook likes and such. I assume you would have a breakdown of that 3.8 million with regard to how far people went into it.

Ms Paul : I am not sure how these metrics are done, so we can take them on notice for you.

Senator O'NEILL: And time on site.

Ms Paul : We will take that on notice.

Senator RHIANNON: I go back to the minister's comment. He said that success is judged as misconceptions having been corrected, but you are talking about data being given inaccurately. We have just had this extraordinary figure of $4 million reached on Facebook.

Senator Birmingham: No, four million page views or people reached or whatever the figure was.

Senator RHIANNON: Precisely. That is misleading.

Senator Birmingham: What is misleading about it?

Senator RHIANNON: You know how Facebook works. It is an incredibly valuable tool, but you can throw these figures around as though all these people have suddenly been corrected on their views about higher education, but it does not mean that at all.

Senator Birmingham: Indeed, the figure that Ms Paul made simply goes to one aspect of the reach of the campaign, and that is what Ms Paul is talking about. When I was talking about the correction of misconceptions, I was referring to the evidence that Ms Gleeson had given and has given, I think, two, three or four times now to the committee about the headline results of the market evaluation of the campaign that have demonstrated a reduction in misunderstandings and misconceptions amongst the key target audience about the nature of the government's higher education reforms. Leading amongst those misunderstandings and misconceptions from all of the conversations I have had with people is a concern that there will be, for example, up-front fees. It is very important that we put that to bed and make it crystal clear to everybody that the HECS system as it stands continues into the future, that the arrangements that students have come to accept from before my time at university as being the norm—that you incur a debt and you pay it off when you reach a certain income level—

Senator O'Neill interjecting

CHAIR: Senator O'Neill, you have been warned before about inaccurate statements.

Senator Birmingham: is exactly what will occur into the future.

Senator RHIANNON: Has any of the research that has been undertaken assessed people's attitude to the possibility that fees could be over $100,000? Young women often want to be vets and are very enthusiastic about that. That could cost over $200,000. Does any of your data examine those important questions?

Ms Paul : What we have taken on notice is to provide information on the market research. We said earlier today that the market research found the same thing in broad that our people found when they went to university open days in the middle of the year last year: prospective students and others to a significant extent were under a misapprehension that HECS-HELP would be abolished and that they would have to pay their fees up front.

Senator RHIANNON: The question was quite specific, so I will ask it again. If you want to answer it, Minister, I will not dispute, but it has not been answered. The question was: did your research assess the attitude of people that fees could be over $100,000—for example, that vet science could cost around $200,000? You surely must know that.

Ms Paul : We do not agree with that analysis, so it is not really a question—

Senator RHIANNON: So you are disputing that vet fees could be around $200,000.

Ms Paul : We have been through this discussion before, but at any rate that will be a discussion for outcome 3. If you want to discuss it more, I suggest you do it at outcome 3.

Senator O'Neill interjecting

Senator O'SULLIVAN: Point of order. These continued interjections by Senator O'Neill do not just disrespect her coalition colleague Senator Rhiannon—

Senator O'NEILL: I was talking to the chair.

Senator O'SULLIVAN: but they disrupt these processes about these important education engagements that I am interested in hearing.

Senator O'NEILL: I am interested in access to education—

CHAIR: Senator O'Neill, it really does not help your case if you are interjecting on the point of order about your interjections.

Senator O'SULLIVAN: I just ask the chair to reinforce the standing orders to the senator so that we can have respectful proceedings here.

CHAIR: All senators are reminded that interjections are disorderly. Senator Rhiannon.

Senator Birmingham: I think I was responding to Senator Rhiannon, Chair. Ms Paul has addressed the specifics of your question, Senator Rhiannon, and undertaken to get further information where that is available. You did earlier today, when I made a claim about the misuse of Mr Norton's information by the Greens and his statements in that regard, invite me to quote Mr Norton, so I am accepting your invitation. On 5 June last year, Mr Norton posted a clarifier on his website under the headline 'How realistic is the Greens' university cost website?' Mr Norton says in that:

For their website the Greens are using data I provided to various newspapers a few weeks ago, but without the caveats I attached to it.

He goes on to say:

… the fee numbers in the Greens’ website are almost certainly higher than the average student will be paying in the future, and definitely much higher than the best-priced courses that will be available.

Senator O'NEILL: If we could have access to the modelling, we would actually be able to make a decision about the truth of that claim.

CHAIR: Senator O'Neill.

Senator O'NEILL: We cannot get the modelling. We have asked for it on a number of occasions.

CHAIR: Senator O'Neill, we are still on our first agenda item. We are about to break for lunch, and I would appreciate all senators trying to facilitate a speedy end to the first agenda item.

Senator Birmingham: I go on quoting Mr Norton:

The campaigns being run by the Greens, the NTEU and NUS are likely to leave many people believing that higher education will be much more expensive than it really is.

Senator Rhiannon, I note your Greens website, authorised by you, continues to exist and continues to put these unknown estimates on the—

Senator RHIANNON: Continues to be helpful given the failure of the government to provide the information.

Senator Birmingham: There are two points I would make in relation to your website. The first is that where we have seen actual fees, from the likes of QUT and UWA, it shows those fees will be far lower than what your scare campaign has suggested.

Senator O'NEILL: That is incorrect.

Senator RHIANNON: That is totally incorrect.

Senator Birmingham: Furthermore, if I can quote from your website, if somebody goes through it and puts in what they are thinking of studying, what their age is, what their postcode is—I am not sure why that is relevant, but anyway—and all of the data that you ask for, it spits out information which includes statements like:

The other big change … the government will now charge real interest rates on your debt.

I am sure that, if our information were so out of date and inaccurate, you would be challenging us to correct it. I trust that, in addition to correcting your inaccurate media release you issued earlier today, you might get your staff onto updating your inaccurate website, which regardless of whether the figures it spits out have any validity to them or not—and I do not believe they do—is also making completely incorrect statements in relation to the new package that is before the parliament.

Senator RHIANNON: Thank you, Minister. Considering that you have made very strong statements there, can you provide actual figures to show where it is incorrect, because you yourself just acknowledged that Mr Norton said that he was almost certain. So we still have not been given the examples to show where the figures are wrong.

Ms Paul : On the website—on your website?

Senator RHIANNON: Yes, and also with regard to disputing where the veterinary society are incorrect with their assessment of what fees—

Ms Paul : We did actually give evidence which pointed out some flaws on the Greens' website in the budget estimates last year. It went to assumptions about cluster funding proceeding in a certain way into universities. I think it went to current prices et cetera. But I do not have the people here at the moment who did that analysis. We do have that in evidence from them, and we can talk about it more at outcome 3, but it is as the minister says. But we also did our own analysis and found several, which I think we actually offered to share at the time—I would have to check—because we felt there were some statistical flaws in—

Senator RHIANNON: But wouldn't the way to correct this be for the department to provide, with encouragement from the minister and/or the advertising campaign, what the fees are likely to be? You still have not done that.

Ms Paul : The model?

Senator RHIANNON: Yes, the model. Why haven't you provided your models?

Senator O'NEILL: We just cannot get it.

Senator Birmingham: Senator Rhiannon, of course you know well that that is because we do not want to be leading the market in setting prices. Indeed, the whole point of these reforms is, in part, to have a competitive tension around those prices. But if you want one example of how the construction of fees by you on the website authorised by you is inaccurate, I will again quote Mr Norton, as I quoted before:

… Greens are using data I provided to various newspapers a few weeks ago but without the caveats I attached to it.

A further quote that I did not give before is:

To reality check some of the wilder speculation at the time about $100,000 degrees, I used international student fees.

Now, Senator Rhiannon, that is what I understand the data on your website is based on: Mr Norton's figures which were utilising international student fees. It is important, though, to recognise that the legislative package before the parliament that has passed the House of Representatives today guarantees that domestic fees must be lower than international fees, minus the level of Commonwealth subsidy. So that means that using international fees is an inaccurate starting point, if that is what you were doing. Now, I—

Senator RHIANNON: But—

Senator Birmingham: Now, obviously, I do not know, because all you do on this website is to ask what you are studying, where you live and how old you are. Then it spits out a figure—with no background as to what basis you have calculated that figure on—that this will bump up your graduation debt to an estimated $63,000 if you happen to be age 18 and studying business. But Mr Norton certainly believes that you have based this on figures that clearly would not be consistent with the outcomes guaranteed by the government's legislative reforms.

Senator RHIANNON: But surely you have just exposed one of the major flaws in your own argument when you have raised this issue of international fees? There is no guarantee where international fees could be. International fees are going up and therefore that bar goes up. You have actually highlighted that it could well be $100,000, even from your own argument.

Senator Birmingham: The international student market is a highly competitive market.

Senator RHIANNON: Yes, and you know where it is heading at the moment. So that is no guarantee that it is going to keep the fees down.

Ms Paul : As we noted, and have noted before, it is certainly not where some of these figures are suggesting it would be—and that is a currently a deregulated and highly competitive market. And that is before you even consider the other reforms, which will also put pressure on university prices, like the extension of Commonwealth funding to private higher education providers and so on. So that is it in the general. In the particular, we did have issues with the website. I think we have expressed them on the record and are quite happy to do it again, or to be contacted by your people about some of the assumptions in the way prices were set. For example, I think there were certain prices which were not made for 2018 and so on. I cannot recall—we do not have the people with us; as I have said before, that is for outcome 3—but nonetheless, we did put this on the record in the budget estimates.

Senator RHIANNON: Do you have examples where deregulation has resulted in fees going down?

Ms Paul : Deregulation of what? The fees are not deregulated at the moment.

Senator RHIANNON: Yes, but you have examined other markets. What are you basing that on? Remember, there was a famous comment from the minister when this debate first started after the May budget. In one interview he said that yes, fees could go up and fees could go down, and then he revised that statement.

Ms Paul : Yes, for example, that is exactly what the Council of Private Higher Education has said. The head of that organisation has said that most of his members intend to pass on the extension of Commonwealth funding to private higher education providers by way of lower fees and so on. So there have been various statements. Of course, the whole point about fee deregulation is that it is up to the institutions to work it out. But there have been various statements in both directions.

In the international sphere we know, for example, that a highly competitive environment exists, where even universities' published prices are then themselves made more competitive by offering scholarships, particular discounts, early enrolment et cetera. Even with the published fees, often the fees that the international student actually ends up paying are much less. And even if you took the book fee, and not what they actually pay—which is often less because of all the special considerations that are made in a competitive environment—they do not go near the sorts of fees that have been talked about.

Senator RHIANNON: Do you have examples where international fees have gone down?

Ms Paul : We might do. I would have to take that on notice. We certainly would have examples of scholarships, discounts, et cetera, which work in a competitive environment.

Senator RHIANNON: That is a little bit of cover, with all due respect, Ms Paul. The question specifically is: where you can supply examples of where fees have gone down.

Ms Paul : Yes, I said I would give it on notice, and I have given you some context.

Senator Birmingham: I would also highlight, at least, in the areas where Commonwealth support is proposed to be extended by these reforms you would expect, of course, fees to come down in relation to non-university higher education providers, in relation to diplomas and pathway courses into universities, and those expanded provisions of Commonwealth support. It should make those programs more accessible to students before we get to matters of scholarships and so forth.

Senator O'NEILL: Senator, just to close off on this, I have a couple of comments.

CHAIR: Comments or questions, Senator O'Neill? After this morning I hope they are questions.

Senator O'NEILL: There is a statement from Mr Griew, which was tabled here at the request of the minister and others, that indicates information around a document 48, which was developed by department officials to illustrate the effect of budget reforms on the share of funding from the Commonwealth and the student. The questions that Senator Rhiannon is now forced to ask, and we as members of the opposition are forced to ask, are constantly based on a lack of transparency and access to the sort of information that the Australian people have a right to know. My first question is: when will the modelling that so much informs people's accurate information be available.

Ms Paul : We have given evidence here each time before—and we are really now in outcome 3—that we have done estimates, we have done costings in the budget context, we have given this evidence in both previous estimates. We have said consistently, including in questions on notice, that it would prejudice the market if we went further. We are quite happy to say all those things again. I should note—and I do not know if you were in the room—that the document you referred to has a privilege.

Senator O'NEILL: Yes, parliamentary privilege allows us to have this conversation.

CHAIR: The department actually said that they were going to vet it.

Ms Paul : Yes, it did.

CHAIR: Given that it is just after 12:30 we have agreement amongst senators that we are going to break for lunch. Senator Rhiannon, you can come back with cross portfolio. Do you have only one more question?

Senator RHIANNON: Yes, I think so, at this stage.

Senator Birmingham: If there is only one question we could finish cross portfolio.

CHAIR: My question to you, Senator Rhiannon, is: will your one more question finish cross portfolio?

Senator RHIANNON: Why don't I come back after lunch.

CHAIR: The committee now stands suspended for lunch.

Proceedings suspended from 12:32 to 13:34

CHAIR: Senator Rhiannon.

Senator RHIANNON: Thank you, Chair. Ms Paul, could you clarify some of your comments before lunch? When we were talking about the issue of possible very high fees, maybe $100,000, were you saying that people are okay with debts of $100,000 if they do not have to pay up-front?

Ms Paul : No. What we were saying was not only do we dispute the assumptions that are made on the Greens website but also we have said in here before that there are a wealth of quotes from sector people and others to suggest the fees will not be anything like that. The bottom line is no; we are not saying that.

Senator RHIANNON: Irrespective of the amount—let us take the amount out—are you saying that people are okay with debt if they do not have to pay up-front? Is that what you are saying or is that what your research has found?

Senator Birmingham: Let us just be clear, and let Ms Paul answer, that in relation to the types of debt people take on in relation to higher education fees, we are talking about debt where repayment is contingent upon income levels down the track as well. That is another aspect of the misconceptions that occur in some of this debate. Firstly, there is no expectation of up-front fees being required under any higher education reforms; secondly, the income contingent nature of any repayments remains, meaning that you have to earn in excess of $50,000 or so to be facing any repayments. Ms Paul can obviously respond to the specific allegations or queries you are making, Senator Rhiannon.

Ms Paul : That is exactly what we have found. As I have said before—as we have said before here and as I said this morning, and we are still back in outcome 3 territory, but anyway—in the middle of last year we attended 46 expos and so on, open days et cetera, and talked to about 8,000 prospective students and families. There was a view, a fear, that HECS-HELP was going to cease and that people would have to pay all their fees up-front. When it was explained to them on those occasions that that was not the case, people were relieved.

We have talked about the objectives of the campaign, which were to counter misconceptions. The formal market research reinforced the misconceptions that we had found from those expos. The fact is that the system remains. Certainly, I know that our people—and they can talk more under outcome 3—spoke to people at those expos and so on and gave them the information that they did not have to spend a cent up-front and they did not have to pay until they reached a certain reasonable income level, which will be $50,000 or so. And, of course, under the new bill, if passed, parents of new-borns would have their interest held for five years—a zero interest rate for five years and not even CPI. I am told that when we informed students on those occasions that the current system would stay in terms of the arrangements, they found that to be relieving.

We have talked here this morning about the objectives of the campaign, we have talked about the market research and we have talked about the top line results—as we have said, the evaluation is ongoing now—which would suggest that there was a slight shift in people's understanding of the current system and some clearing of misconception. That was, I think, in the first phase of the campaign.

Senator RHIANNON: Did you attend any of these expos yourself?

Ms Paul : No, I did not. That is why I have been saying that we should deal with these matters under outcome 3. If you want to question the people who did go to them and get direct feedback later today, I would welcome that. There are also quotes and so on from the market research which we can provide to you. For example, I remember one which I read which was when someone was asked in the market research if the Commonwealth was involved and they said, 'Is that the Commonwealth Bank?'

There was quite a widespread misunderstanding of even the current system and there was a fear about what was purportedly going to happen.

Senator RHIANNON: When you spoke earlier about fees and published fees, were you suggesting that they may have, in some cases, overstated the actual prices?

Ms Paul : We think your website has. I was not saying anything about the campaign.

Senator RHIANNON: No, I am talking about the actual fees that are publicised. I got that impression from the formulation that you used, so I just wanted you to clarify.

Ms Paul : Yes. We have always said on the record—and there are plenty of quotes from people in the sector that call it a scare campaign, not my words, about $100,000 degrees and so on, which is not what people in the sector are saying. We have said that here before many times.

Senator RHIANNON: I was checking on the official data that you were referring to. Thank you.

Senator O'NEILL: With regard to the declaration of the expenditure on the contact centre, the department hotline, of $6,179 for 136 calls, which equates to about $45 per call, do you consider that good value for money?

Ms Paul : It depends entirely on what that money was for. We were doing that analysis in the context of a media release which was using a different figure. It depends on what that money was for. It could have been to develop, for example, the scripts. There is a whole bunch of infrastructure like writing the scripts for a call centre. I do not know what the call cost is in our call centre at the moment. I suspect it is considerably less than $45. The money is not used in that way; the money is used to write scripts et cetera. I do not know everything that was inside that $6,179. I am quite happy to take that on notice and unpack that for you.

Senator O'NEILL: Thank you. I would like that breakdown. The other thing is this headline data that have been referred to on a number of occasions. It is a shame we do not have richer data to examine on this occasion. Considering the language and the descriptors, and a slight shift in perception—it seemed very qualified language—given the program was $14.6 million for the campaign, how much of that has been expended so far?

Ms Paul : We have committed about eight, I think we said—that is not spent; there would be less spent.

Senator O'NEILL: To get results that show a slight shift, it does seem to be extraordinary as an outcome.

Ms Paul : These are just top-line results and I think they were done after the first couple of weeks. There has been another couple of weeks, which is what of course the formal evaluation will go to.

Senator O'NEILL: It would be good to get some detail about that. Also, did the department have in mind the degree of shift along those identified areas that you are engaging with?

Ms Paul : You do not know what the degree of shift is necessarily going to be. We are talking about people's attitudes. These things are like public health campaigns and so on.

Senator O'NEILL: Yes, which are evidence based and research based, so you have statements of where you are as a baseline and a target that you want to achieve

Ms Paul : Maybe you do; maybe I misunderstand their character.

Senator O'NEILL: If there is any documentation around the articulation of that research—this is the baseline, this is where we are—that would be very helpful to see that.

Ms Paul : I think we have already taken it on notice. There is baseline research done through market research before the campaign.

Senator O'NEILL: Yes—where people were at this slight shift and on what criteria were the shifts determined? What was the assessment made under?

Ms Paul : We did read that and it went to a shift in the level of understanding, upwards, of current policy and of current arrangements like HECS-HELP, and, as I understand it, an increase in understanding of the potential reforms as well. Whether that can be quantified, I do not think that is the nature of top-line research. I think it is of a more qualitative nature.

Senator O'NEILL: I would appreciate having more detail about that. Given the very difficult passage of this piece of legislation in terms of the government's point of view and its rejection by the Senate was all happening at the time of the rollout of the advertising campaign and when the assessments were being undertaken, could you ascertain what the questions were around people's understanding of the legislation? I am sure that that would have been an impacting factor on some of this. I would like to know any questions around that. Were questions taking into account the legislative progress or failure to progress the bill and the public commentary around that, because that was quite significant in terms of public information at the time this campaign was being evaluated.

Ms Paul : The nature of this campaign is an awareness campaign—so it is awareness that is being tested, which is perhaps what you are talking about.

Senator O'NEILL: But you did say 'change in understanding', which is connected to knowledge, and knowledge in the public place clearly would have played into this.

Ms Paul : Yes. It would have been testing. For example, the market research was testing—whoever they were talking to in the focus groups—what is the level of understanding of the current system, and what is the level of awareness of the reforms. We have talked about that here as being low on both counts, which matched what we had found at the open days and so on. So, as to the research itself, I think I have taken on notice whether we can give you that research. I think I took that on notice for Senator Carr. The research talks about a clear need or a rationale, if you like—I am not quite sure of the words; we would have to look at the report—for offering people information, because clearly the level of awareness of both the current system and the proposed reforms was found to be low.

CHAIR: There are no further questions for cross-portfolio.