On 6 October 2020, the Senate referred the following documents to the Education and Employment Legislation Committee (the committee) for examination and report:
Particulars of proposed expenditure in respect of the year ending on
30 June 2021;
Particulars of certain proposed expenditure in respect of the year ending on 30 June 2021; and
Particulars of proposed expenditure in relation to parliamentary departments in respect of the year ending 30 June 2021.
In accordance with a resolution of the Senate on 31 August 2016, as amended on 12 February 2018 and on 13 February 2020, the committee is responsible for the examination of the expenditure and outcomes of the following portfolios:
Education, Skills and Employment, including Industrial Relations; and
Industry, Science, Energy and Resources, excluding Industry, Science, Energy and Resources but including Small Business.
A full list of agencies is available at Appendix 1.
Portfolio Budget Statements 2020-21
The Portfolio Budget Statements (PBS) 2020–21 for the Education, Skills and Employment portfolio, the Attorney-General's portfolio (covering Industrial Relations matters) and the Industry, Science, Energy and Resources portfolio (covering Small Business matters) were tabled in the Senate on 6 October 2020.
On 14 May 2020, the Minister for Finance Senator the Hon. Mathias Cormann, by leave, moved that Budget estimates hearings for the committee would occur from Monday, 26 October 2020 to Thursday, 29 October 2020, with an additional day, if required, on Friday 30 October 2020.
Accordingly, the committee agreed to consider particulars of expenditure as follows:
Employment and Industrial Relations matters, including Small Business—26 and 27 October 2020; and
Education, Skills and Employment matters—28 and 29 October 2020.
The first two days focused on employment and industrial relations matters under the responsibility of the Attorney-General's Department and its agencies, and on small business matters under the responsibility of the Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources and its agencies. The third and fourth days focused on the Education, Skills and Employment portfolio under the responsibility of the Department of Education, Skills and Employment and its agencies.
Following guidance from the Senate Procedure Committee in relation to COVID Safe Arrangements, the committee agreed that interstate witnesses could opt to appear by videoconference and Canberra based witnesses were to appear in person. Of the 157 witnesses selected to appear during estimates by their departments/agencies, 44 elected to appear via videoconference. Two of the 21 Senators who questioned witnesses appeared via videoconference.
The committee heard evidence from the following Minsters:
Senator the Hon. Marise Payne, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Minister for Women representing the Minister for Industrial Relations;
Senator the Hon. Zed Seselja, Assistant Minister for Finance, Charities and Electoral Matters representing the Minister for Industrial Relations;
Senator the Hon. Richard Colbeck, Minister for Aged Care and Senior Australians and Minister for Youth and Sport representing the Minister for Industrial Relations;
Senator the Hon. Michaelia Cash, Minister for Employment, Skills, Small and Family Business;
Senator the Hon. Simon Birmingham, Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment representing the Minister for Education; and
Senator the Hon. Jane Hume, Assistant Minister for Superannuation, Financial Services and Financial Technology representing the Minister for Education.
Evidence was also provided by the following departmental secretaries who were accompanied by officers of their portfolio departments and agencies:
Mr Chris Moraitis PSM, Secretary, Attorney-General's Department;
Mr David Fredericks PSM, Secretary, Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources; and
Dr Michele Bruniges AM, Secretary, Department of Education, Skills and Employment.
The committee extends its appreciation to the Ministers and officers of the departments and agencies who assisted the committee in conducting its
2020-21 Budget estimates hearings.
Questions on notice
In accordance with Standing Order 26(9)(a), the committee agreed that the date for the return of answers in response to questions placed on notice from the Budget estimates 2020-21 hearings from 26 to 29 October would be
10 December 2020.
In this report, references to the Committee Hansard are to the proof transcripts. Page numbers may vary between the transcripts of the Proof Hansard and the Official Hansard.