Chapter 2


This chapter lists the key topics discussed for each department and agency examined during the committee's hearings for Additional Estimates 2021–22. Page numbers of the Proof Hansard for that day's hearing are indicated in brackets as a reference.1

Attorney-General's portfolio, Industrial Relations matters – Wednesday, 16 February 2022

Attorney-General's Department

Both Senator the Hon Michaelia Cash, the Attorney-General and Minister for Industrial Relations and Ms Katherine Jones, Secretary of the Attorney-General's Department (AGD) did not make an opening statement.
Topics discussed for the Industrial Relations Group included:
Respect@Work report, particularly in relation to the implementation of Recommendation 28: the express prohibition of sexual harassment in the Fair Work Act 2009 (pp. 4–5)
The impact of the changes implemented from the Sex Discrimination Act 1984 and the implementation of its provisions (p. 6)
The ratification of the ILO Convention on Eliminating Violence and Harassment in the World of Work (No. 190) and legal advice regarding potential legislation for its implementation (pp. 8–9)
Detail of work being undertaken to implement the government’s response to the Respect@Work report (pp. 10–11)
The appointment of Joanne Farrell as Chair of Safe Work Australia, amidst findings of sexual harassment culture during her tenure as former group executive at Rio Tinto (pp. 12–15)
Coal Long Service Leave Review (Coal LSL) published by KPMG and the treatment of non-traditional employment arrangements regarding the coverage of the scheme (pp. 17–18)
Workforce figures regarding casual employment, casual loading payments and progression to permanent positions (pp. 20–23)
The complexities of the Fair Work Act 2009 and the interpretation of the employer-employee relationship (pp. 25–27)
Workforce data regarding the impact of COVID-19 and casual conversion (pp. 31–32)
Enterprise bargaining agreement and the utilisation of unliteral enterprise termination (pp. 33–35)
The national minimum wage and alterations to it (pp. 46–48)
Conditions around labour hire and the use of labour hire in preference to permanent workers (pp. 52–55)
Current emerging issues in industrial relations including job security (pp. 56–60)

Australian Building and Construction Commission

Mr Stephen McBurney, Commissioner of the Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC), made an opening statement which encompassed three milestones addressing the regulation of workplace relations in the building and construction industry.
Topics discussed for the ABCC included:
High Court decisions pertaining to the Construction Forestry Maritime Mining Energy Union (CFMEU) and how this impacts the Agency
(pp. 67–68)
Measures taken to safeguard workers receiving backpay to meet minimum requirements in modern awards (pp. 67–68)
Monies recovered from misclassified contractors and sham contracting (pp. 68)
Compliance notices issued regarding failure to meet sham contracting provisions and actions taken to address sham contracting (pp. 69–70)
The nature of the agency's litigation and focal points (pp. 71–72)
Details and outcomes relating to action against the CFMEU in the Coffs Harbour hospital expansion project (pp. 72–73)

Coal Mining Industry (Long Service Leave Funding Campaign)

Ms Darlene Perks, Chief Executive Officer of Coal LSL did not make an opening statement.
Topics discussed for the Coal LSL included:
The Coal LSL Report reviewing the underpayment and treatment of causal coalminers (p. 77)
Conflicts of interest with KPMG producing the Coal LSL Report and further work undertaken by KPMG with Coal LSL (p. 77)
Coal LSL system and the impact on casual coalminers (pp. 77–78)

Fair Work Commission

Mr Murray Furlong, Acting General Manager of the Fair Work Commission (FWC), did not make an opening statement.
Topics discussed for the FWC included:
Data relating to the unilateral termination of expired enterprise agreements (pp. 78–79)
The conditions for workers and impact on their wages should they be put back on the modern award (pp. 79–80)
The process that the FWC undertakes when it receives an Enterprise Bargaining Agreement (EBA) application (p. 81)
The mandating of vaccines by employers in the private sector and Commonwealth employees (pp. 81–82)
The COVID-19 vaccine claim scheme, compensation available to individuals and issues related to receiving compensation (pp. 83–84)
Current laws regarding the protection of workers (p. 84)
The cancellation of an EBA and the process including negotiation and conditions of termination (pp. 85–86)
Issues related to causal conversion including eligibility and reasonable grounds (pp. 86–87)
Appointments and vacancies at the Fair Work Commission (pp. 90–91)

Fair Work Ombudsman

Ms Sandra Parker PSM, Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO), did not make an opening statement.
Topics discussed for the FWO included:
The mandating of vaccines by employers in the private sector and Commonwealth employees (pp. 94–95)
The appropriateness for employers to mandate medical treatments and the parameters for industrial relations law to support these actions (pp. 96–97)
Investigations into labour hire and the exploitation of migrant workers through various government programs and schemes (pp. 97–98)
Processes in place for collaboration between the Department of Home Affairs and the agency to deport individual workers under the Pacific Labour Scheme or Seasonal Worker Program (pp. 99–100)
Conditions regarding the Pacific Labour Scheme and Seasonal Worker Program (p. 100)
The role of the Pacific Labour Facility and the provision of pacific workers in Australia (pp. 101–103)
Requests for casual conversions and the process for requesting it (pp. 103–105)
The complexities of the employer-employee relationship and its presentation in the Fair Work Act 2009 (p. 105)


Ms Susan Weston PSM, Chief Executive Officer of Comcare, did not make an opening statement.
Topics discussed for Comcare included:
Accusations against Comcare for unethical behaviour regarding the Australian Federal Police officers' claims (pp. 10 –107)
Data reflecting the number of claims denied by Comcare (p. 107)
Status regarding the inquiry into the management of COVID-19 related health and safety risks on Australian Border Force vessels (pp. 108–109)
The treatment of COVID-19-positive personnel onboard Australian Border Force vessels (p. 110)

Safe Work Australia

Ms Michelle Baxter, Chief Executive Officer of Safe Work Australia (SWA), did not make an opening statement.
Topics discussed for SWA included:
The agency's view of rapid antigen testing for workers and details regarding the draft rapid antigen testing guidelines (pp. 111–112)
The amount of rapid antigen testing available to workers at Safe Work Australia (p. 112)
The agency’s view of the appointment of Joanne Farrell as Chair of Safe Work Australia, amidst findings of sexual harassment culture during her tenure as former group executive at Rio Tinto (pp. 112–114)
Setting policy to develop guidance on psychosocial hazards in the workplace (pp. 114–115)
The process for recording inquiries, complaints and claims relating to workplace sexual harassment matters (pp. 115–116)
The capturing of data for notifications relating to sexual harassment in the workplace (pp. 116–117)

Education, Skills and Employment Portfolio – Thursday, 17 February 2022

Department of Education, Skills and Employment

Senator the Hon Jonathon Duniam, representing the Acting Minister for Education and Youth, made an opening statement on behalf of the Acting Minister for Education and Youth.
Dr Michelle Bruniges AM, Secretary of the Department of Education, Skills and Employment (DESE), did not make an opening statement.

Corporate and Enabling Services

Topics discussed for DESE – Corporate and Enabling Services included:
The inclusion of consultancies and the budget for advertising, campaign services and market research (pp. 5–6)
Expenditure of monies allocated to the Department (pp. 7–8)
The increase in contracts entered into by the Department, related expenditure and its relation to jobactive assessments (pp. 8–9)
Details regarding the activities staff are undertaking and, if they are contracted, the number of staff and the reasons for a large number of contracted staff (pp. 9–10)
The responsibilities of the Department for the surveillance of integrity and the importance of monitoring and watching internal transactions (pp. 10–11)
Arrangements for the oversight of Ministers and changes to the process over the last decade (pp. 11–12)

Early Childhood and Child Care

Topics discussed for DESE – Early Childhood and Child Care included:
Concerns around local early childhood services, including the number of closures and the impact it has on families (pp. 12–14)
Data capture and the reflection of attendances and closures nationwide in early childhood services statistics (pp. 14–16)
The impact of waived gap fees on women in the workforce with children attending early childhood services (pp. 17–18)
The status of the business continuity payments and information about entities that are receiving it (pp. 18–19)
How the Department monitors workforce vacancies, attraction and retentions in early childhood services (pp. 19–20)
Department’s activities into the closures of early childhood centres and the impact of an undersupply of early childhood services (pp. 20–21)
Requests for government support regarding ventilation to manage COVID-19 (pp. 23–24)
Parents and the out-of-pocket expenses relating to early childhood services (pp. 24–26)
The financial impact on services resulting from the omicron wave (pp. 26–27)
The increase in serious incidents within childcare services (pp. 29–30)

Schools and Youth

Topics discussed for DESE – Schools and Youth included:
Federal advice to state education departments about the reporting of COVID-19 cases among teachers and staff (pp. 31–32)
Data collation regarding COVID-19 cases and the Commonwealth’s role (pp. 32–33)
The volume of Rapid Antigen Tests (RATs) that have been used, jurisdiction by jurisdiction, for school students and schools (p. 33)
The Minister’s 2021 Statement of Intent and the school funding (pp. 33–34)
COVID-19 arrangements and a status of the code of practice for boarding school students and interstate students travelling to school (p. 35)
Review of the utilisation of JobKeeper into the funding calculations for schools (pp. 36–37)
Increasing federal funding for public schools (pp. 37–38)
The number of youth roundtables, attendance rates, representation and details of upcoming youth roundtables (pp. 38–40)
The appointment of a Regional Education Commissioner and the appointment process (pp. 40–41)
The Emerging Priorities Program and the allocation of funding to address raised issues by stated and territories (pp. 42–43)
Advice around the wearing of masks and the impact it has on children's learning and development (pp. 43–44)
NAPLAN results and the analysis into underperformance categories (pp. 44–45)
The impact of current government policies and the improvement of equity through NAPLAN results (pp. 47–48)

Higher Education, International and Research Division

Topics discussed for DESE – Higher Education, International and Research Division included:
The division of the Department's responsibilities between responsible Ministers (pp. 50–51)
Analysis of job losses in the higher education sector during the pandemic (pp. 51–52)
Funding for universities, job insecurity and the Department's role (pp. 52–53)
The Department's input into university reporting on casual and insecure staff (pp. 53–54)
Job-ready Graduate changes and the data reflecting the Commonwealth Grant Scheme funding per student place per year (p. 54)
The return of international students to pre-pandemic levels (pp. 54–55)
Conflict of interest and political affiliations in the appointment of the Regional Education Commissioner (pp. 56–60)
Funding and the development of the Regional Universities Centre (pp. 60–62)
Data reflecting research commercialisation (pp. 62–66)

Australian Research Council

Ms Judi Zielke, Acting Chief Executive Officer of the Australian Research Council (ARC), made an opening statement where she paid tribute to her predecessor Professor Sue Thomas and reflected on the role of the ARC in awarding grants to the research sector.
Topics discussed for the ARC included:
The role of universities in the collection of information on Australian academics and the provision of this information to the public (pp. 67–68)
Breeches of freedom of information and the ARC's involvement (pp. 69–70)
The assessment process regarding grant applications and the selection of projects (pp. 70–71)
Circumstances surrounding the Minister's intervention to veto funding for six projects (pp. 71–73)
Public confidence in the ARC (pp. 73–74)
Status of schemes currently being developed including the Guidelines for Discovery Projects 2023 and Linkage Infrastructure, Equipment and Facilities (pp. 75–76)
The rationale behind the decline of research grants for specific projects (pp. 78–80)

Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency

Professor Peter Coaldrake AO, Chief Commissioner of the Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency (TEQSA) did not make an opening statement.
Topics discussed for the TEQSA included:
Details of the appeal process for the reversal of categorising Alphacrucis College as a University College (pp. 87–89)
The benefits of becoming categorised as a University College (pp. 89–90)

Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership

Mr Mark Grant PSM, Chief Executive Officer of the Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership (AITSL), did not make an opening statement.
Topics discussed for the AITSL included:
High-level monitoring on teacher supply and demand (pp. 90–91)
Number of graduates required to balance education professionals retiring (pp. 91–93)
The ratio of male to female education professionals in the country and incentives in place (pp. 93–94)

Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority

Mr David de Carvalho, Chief Executive Officer of the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA), did not make an opening statement.
Topics discussed for ACARA included:
Developments regarding the new curriculum and its finalisation (pp. 94–95)
Sustainability, environment and climate change considerations within the new curriculum (pp. 95–96)
Performance differentials between male and female students, Indigenous and non-Indigenous students, major cities and regional cities, and between regional and remote in NAPLAN results (pp. 96–98)
Unpacking the increasing gap in socio-educational disadvantage (pp. 99–102)
Curriculum amendments regarding Anzac Day (pp. 103–104)
Capital expenditure per student for both the non-government and government school sectors (pp. 105–106)

Skills and Training Division

Topics discussed for DESE – Skills and Training Division included:
National prices and fee bands within the proposed national skills agreement and increased fees for students (pp. 107–108)
Enrolment rate of students into courses amid an increase in VET courses (pp. 108–110)
Developments regarding the national skills agreement including negotiations, deadline dates and requests to delay (pp. 110–111)
Points of agreement and disagreement of the national skills proposal (p. 112)
VET-FEE HELP redress measure and the number of students that have had it applied or had debts recredited (pp. 113–115)
Funding allocation to states for TAFE and Vocational Education (pp. 115–116)
Budgeting allocation to the Australian Apprenticeship Support Network (pp. 117–119)
Budget allocation to the Skills Checkpoint for Older Workers (pp. 120–121)
Performance outcome measurements regarding training hubs (pp. 121–125)

Employment Division

Topics discussed for DESE – Employment Division included:
Complaints received by the National Customer Service Line (pp. 125–127)
Outcome of the audit into the quality of job plans (pp. 127–128)
The New Employment Services Model budget and the calculation of savings (pp. 128–130)
Funding for skills and training for jobseekers (pp. 130–131)
The rebranding of Employment Services into Workforce Australia (p. 131)
Impact of lifting contingency provisions for mutual obligations and the impact of the pandemic (pp. 132–133)

National Skills Commission

Mr Adam Boyton, National Skills Commissioner, did not make an opening statement.
Topics discussed for the National Skills Commission (NSC) included:
The agency's interpretation of the data encompassing skills shortages (pp. 133–135)
The gaps and the impact of not addressing emerging and current workforce demands (pp. 135–136)
Senator the Hon Matthew Canavan

  • 1
    Page numbers may vary between the Proof and Official Hansard transcripts when published.

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